Motherhood

Are You Pushing Your Kids Too Hard: Why Extracurriculars Don’t Matter THAT Much

A few weeks ago parents were invited to watch the last 10 minutes of dance class. A rare treat. I sat on the floor as my sweet 7 year old performed with her friends.

Their dance was beautiful and I was amazed at how in sync they were. I videoed and smiled and held back tears (because just about anything kid related gets me crying these days). When the dance was over, my sweet girl ran to me. I told her she did a great job and she asked why I stopped videoing in the middle of the dance. I admitted that my phone died. She laughed. Typical Mom.

Just as we were headed out the door, I saw another girl walk up to her Mom nervously, desperate for validation she said, “Did I do bad?” her Mom seemed annoyed, “no, you didn’t do bad.” The Mom walked past Kid to Instructor “Hey I need you to look at Kid’s split, it’s weird and I need you to tell me what she’s doing wrong.”

I was sad for Kid and I immediately judged the mother. Kid didn’t get the validation she desperately needed and it made my heart ache to see someone so little be so vulnerable. I wished the mother could be more gentle. I wished she could take a chill pill and remember that, in the grand scheme of things, dance is not that important. I mean, even if she’s planning on raising a professional ballerina or something, everyone will live.

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I went home and went through my daughter’s binder. She made a B in Math. Again. She made the same careless adding error we had talked about many, many times. I launched into a speech about taking her time and focusing. I was frustrated. This stuff was easy, why wasn’t she getting it?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am that dance mom. But, for me, the “big important thing” is school.

It can be easy for us to take what our kids do too seriously. We can put too much pressure on them in sports or dance or piano or whatever it is that means something to them or (brace yourself for the truth bomb:) means something to YOU. It’s especially easy to slip into drill sergeant mode when you recognize talent in your kid. There’s a natural urge within us to want to cultivate that talent and help it grow which is good…..unless we expect perfection.

I think it’s important for all of us to zoom out and ask ourselves: Am I expecting too much? How important REALLY is that 1st grade Math test? Or that split? Or that baseball game?

Our kids are in extra curriculars because it nourishes their growth, teaches them a healthy dose of commitment and discipline and, here’s the MOST IMPORTANT PART: because it’s fun! The activity is for your kid, not the other way around. Remember that. Even if you’re trying to raise a professional ballerina or a math prodigy, the effort and passion must come from the kid, not from an overbearing parent.

We had our shot and, now our time is over. We will never go to Harvard or play in a band or win MVP, but they might, and that’s up to them.

(Featured Image by Gaelle Marcel)

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