Growing up I was a competitive gymnast. Gymnastics was not something I did because my parents thought I should try it along with a myriad of other activities. I did it because I wanted to. Exclusively. We were fortunate to live in a town with a very good private gymnastics center with a team that competed all over the state. I joined the team at the age of 9, won the Indiana State all around competition at the age of 12 and retired from competition at the ripe old age of 14 – burned out from 25 hours a week spent in the gym. Despite that, I never regretted devoting myself to gymnastics in lieu of anything else; no piano or violin, no martial arts, no track and field. In high school I stuck to theater & dance as my only extra-curricular activities, never competing in any high school sport.
Am I a lesser person for it? It’s hard to be objective, but I don’t think so. I’m glad my parents didn’t force me into gymnastics or out of it; both moves were my decision. It started when I taught myself how to do cartwheels in our backyard after seeing a friend do them at Vacation Bible School. The gymnastics stuck – the Bible school didn’t.
Had my parents insisted I be ‘exposed’ to every type of extra-curricular activity under the sun in order to be well-rounded and not miss out on any opportunity, I might never have competed in gymnastics. As it was, I ‘missed out’ on a lot of things, I suppose, but I never missed them, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps this is why I feel no compulsion to enroll my kids in tons of classes. I guess I feel like if they really want to do something, they’ll let me know (like Maya did last Winter with Spanish). They’ve both taken their share of classes over the years, mostly when they were younger; everything from cooking to rock climbing to gymnastics and art – but usually no more than a couple at a time, and only because they wanted to. Unlike me, neither of them to this point has developed a fixation on any one activity – at least nothing that is an official class and that you must pay to participate in. The class they have both stuck with the longest is Art. Other than that, Maya is fairly obsessed with videos and editing, and Ben loves Lego and Gamestar Mechanic. This Fall our class schedule will consist of Spanish and Art for both of them and possibly Wayfinders for Ben (which is a big organized game of Capture the Flag once a week in Central Park), although he is on the fence about it at this point.
We like our underscheduled life. It is a conscience choice, and although I have one child who can entertain himself for hours with just about anything and one who enjoys routine and structure, they both agree they are happier not spending their time moving from one activity to the next. And so am I. Part of me has always had the nagging suspicion that this is some form of laziness on my part, but today the New York Times was in my camp on the whole happiness thing. Check out this article:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have nowhere I need to go.