Thursday, October 6, 2011

On the side lines

Well, we did something radical around here this Fall....

....we didn't sign Jesse up for a sport.  No soccer, no baseball.  Nothing.

Now, this is radical for several reasons:

1. In our suburban community/culture, it's what you do.  Sign ups for sports begin months ahead of time, conveniently on a website that is customized for your family.  The standard question is: "What sport is Johnny playing this Fall?"  It unites the community, gives common ground. 
2. We have always thought that Jesse needed to be involved in sports so that he would have an outlet for all his energy.  He is also naturally athletic and we wanted him to be able to use his gifts.  He has also always had a hard time "playing well with others" and we thought good old teamwork would help in that area. 

There is nothing wrong with either of those radical reasons.  In fact, in many ways they are good- being connected to the community, learning teamwork, exercises.  But there are times when they can be not so good.  When kids are put under pressure to perform or to even participate in activities that are too structured for their age.  When families are torn apart most weekday nights because everyone is doing a different sport.  When worship together on Sunday mornings is replaced with games and again, families split apart.

Every family needs to decide what is the best use of their time, I don't want to say that you are doing the wrong thing if your children are involved in sports- for many families and many kids, it is a good thing for everyone.  But when I asked Jesse (in early summer because that is when you need to sign up!) what he wanted to play in the fall and he said, "Nothing",  I was secretly glad.  I could feel my whole body exhale and now I can see how different things have been because of that one word.

We have had Jesse involved in sports for the past four years and it has always been a struggle.  It was hard for us to understand because he is naturally athletic and loves to run and play sports,  but he just couldn't get the team work thing down and he didn't like playing by the rules.  For the past few years, we assumed it was a maturity issue (and may still be) but we were still struggling to get him to pay attention, to participate, to get to practice without kicking and screaming. 

It was also a strain on me- the stress of getting him to practice, at dinnertime with all three kids on my own.  Not fun.  I was stressed, he was stressed.  Why were we doing it?  We weren't training our 4, 5, 6, 7 year old to be a professional athlete, in fact, Matt didn't start playing soccer until junior high school and he ended up playing on our college's varsity team.  Also, when Jesse started his ADHD medication, we saw that his need for physical release was not as strong and we are seeing that a lot of the teamwork/structure issues were present in other areas of life as well. 

So, when he said he wanted to do "nothing" this Fall, it was a welcome change.

I also realized a key heart issue of my own.  Our slowed down Fall has helped me see that the organized sports we had Jesse involved in was a distraction for me- something to do other than parent.  Because, let's face it, it's a lot easier to drive kids around in a car than to really do the hard work of parenting, of reaching the heart, of training in righteousness.  I was convicted that parenting is not about driving kids to one thing to the next but about serving them with our time in ways that mold and shape their hearts. 
Lord, forgive me. 

Our quiet Fall has allowed me to respond to conviction and to know my son better.  It has allowed less stressful weeknights of spending time together and getting homework done without rush. 

Maybe we should be radical more often! 


Magpie Designz said...

Sounds like a great plan! I agree wholeheartedly that too many kids are signed up for too many activities! Slowing down is a good thing! We are also putting that in to practice in our lives and it feels great!

Kit said...

Jane, I'm so proud of the wisdom you guys have shown in this. I wholeheartedly agree with you...children will not be "behind" in activities if they start them a little later in life! Good for you, good for Jesse. I applaud you. Love!

Anonymous said...

Jane, I want to affirm your decision. Less stress makes for a happier household.