The boys were supposed to begin swim practice three weeks ago. The first week we didn’t go because it was the first week of school. I thought it would be too chaotic. The second week we didn’t go because I was so sick. There was no way I was getting out of bed for beginning/intermediate swim practice. This week, the third week, we had choir practice on the first day of practice and a parent-teacher open house on the second day of practice. On both days we got home after our usual dinner time and by consequence went to bed late. In my case, very late. On Wednesday we could have gone to practice. It was the first day in several weeks where we didn’t have another obligation to meet and the boys had light homework. If ever there was a day to spend two hours at a pool, this was it.
We didn’t go, obviously. I pulled away from the school parking lot and decided we would have a late afternoon/evening of just nothing instead of going home, changing, and then eating a quick snack on the way to practice. Mikey was excited about the idea. Nico, wasn’t as excited. He likes swim practice, but he’s in the beginner’s group. They aren’t exactly on an Olympian training schedule.
For months I’ve been debating what to do about the boys and their activities. Choir is nonnegotiable. We feel strongly that they should be involved in at least one church ministry. Mikey wants to continue with clarinet lessons. He loves it, and his teacher thinks that by 7th grade he could audition for a youth symphony in our area. Nico wants to do an instrument, too, but he doesn’t seem in love with piano. He keeps talking about trumpet/clarinet/drums/violin. So, anything but piano.
If we did choir, music, and swimming, there would be an after school activity Monday-Friday. It’s too much. I can’t do it and we can’t afford it. I guess if we tightened up our belts (more) we could, but the reasons why I should do that elude me.
Our pediatrician repeats at every annual checkup that physical activity is key to healthy childhood, which is why the boys have always been in sports. But the other day I realized they don’t need to be on a formal team to get physical activity. I know that sounds obvious, but I can’t be the only one who has forgotten that you can get physical activity just by playing outside! Riding bikes, playing kickball in the street, shooting hoops, etc. are all ways to exercise. This realization reminded me of a passage from Simplicity Parenting, my favorite book on parenting.
Three out of four kids quit youth sports by the age of thirteen. Too many of the 40 million kids who play organized youth sports get seriously injured, emotionally scarred or simply learn the wrong lessons about teamwork, social cooperation and leadership. It�s downright tragic that at precisely the age when kids are physically, emotionally, socially and neurologically primed to benefit most from team sport participation, they opt out in droves.
This is another interesting excerpt from an article on the decline of risky play in children thanks to our concern they will hurt themselves. (Guilty.)
An ironic fact is that children are far more likely to injure themselves in adult-directed sports than in their own freely chosen, self-directed play. That�s because the adult encouragement and competitive nature of the sports lead children to take risks–both of hurting themselves and of hurting others�that they would not choose to take in free play. It is also because they are encouraged, in such sports, to specialize, and therefore overuse specific muscles and joints. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.5 million children per year under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries. That�s about 1 out of every 7 children engaged in youth sports. Sports medicine for children has become a big business, thanks to adults who encourage young pitchers to throw so hard and so often they throw out their elbows, encourage young football linemen to hit so hard they get concussions, encourage young swimmers to practice so often and hard they damage their shoulders to the point of needing surgery. Children playing for fun rarely specialize (they enjoy variety in play), and they stop when it hurts, or they change the way they are playing. Also, because it�s all for fun, they take care not to hurt their playmates. Adults, who get all wrapped up in winning and may hope for eventual scholarships, work against nature�s means of preventing damage.
Staying home was incredible. I cleaned out Nico’s folder and finished all outstanding paperwork. The boys had their homework finished before dinner, which we ate early. I had time to read with Nico, who really needs my attention in this department. He’s an incredible but extremely insecure reader. Mikey had time to study for an English test until he felt confident with the material. Later, I went through the chapter with him and quizzed him on some concepts. Subject! Predicates! Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? While the boys took their evening showers, I made our lunches for tomorrow. Now I’m writing a post and getting ready to go to bed. If this is life without sports, I might take it.
p.s. I walked into Nico’s classroom at parent/teacher night and knew which desk was his without having to read the name tags on the desks. SIGH. The second picture is an Origami Diplodocus from Mikey.