When our girls started to get involved in activities, we set a pretty strict one-activity-at-a-time rule. That meant that sometimes activities that went year round were put on hold for a couple of months to allow for another seasonal activity to take center stage. We partially put this rule into place to help balance our family schedule. We also feel it's important for kids to have unscheduled, unstructured time to just be, and to figure out how to self entertain should they find themselves "bored." As our girls get older, and the list of activities available to them expands, it has been harder to stick to our self imposed restriction. Ultimately we knew that was bound to happen given how busy our own schedules once looked as middle school/high school/college students. But during their earliest years, we hope we were able to to help our girls maintain healthy schedules that helped them both enjoy a variety of activities and allowed them to just be kids during their short childhoods
As our girls get more involved, it seems we do as well. Coaching. Chaperoning. Organizing. The more involved we become, as I observe the craziness of so many family schedules, the more I think about how our society's tendency to have kids on the go, go, go affects them long term. As so many of us who have benefited from being involved in a variety of activities during our youth know, those activities help us to learn and grow into strong, confident, resilient adults who are well equipped to deal with all that life throws at you through the years. But I also wonder, is it possible that the current trend of committing youth to so many different simultaneous activities is preventing kids from learning the value of being committed?
I am a firm believer that there is a difference between making a commitment, and being committed. I, for one, am committed to my commitments. (Sometimes, my husband might argue, to the point of me needing to be committed!) I realize it is partially a simple reflection of my personality. I simply do not find value in doing something half-assed. I'm sure it's the part of my being that thrives on passion. But I also believe it is, at least in part, due to the fact that while growing up, I was expected to be fully committed to whatever "in season" activity I was involved. Whether I was part of a team, or a cast, or a performance group, my commitment, mentally and physically, contributed to the great success many of those teams/casts/groups in which I was involved experienced. Yes, I benefited as an individual from my involvement, but none of those teams/casts/groups would have been as successful as we were without the individual commitments of each member. Commitments of time. Commitments of mental focus. Commitments that asked us to stay committed not only when things were easy, running smoothly, comfortable, but also when we faced times that required us to learn to be resilient in the face of struggle and discomfort. No only has being one who commits fully to the activities in which I chose to be involved helped me grow as a person, but it also has helped me to learn the value in saying NO when I'm approached about being involved in an activity to which I do not feel I can be fully committed. In addition to helping me be a stronger, more confident individual, it has helped me learn the value in maintaining a balance between being involved and just being.
This week we attended an orientation night to prepare for Lexi's move from middle school to high school next year. As part of the evening, a variety of activities and groups were present to hand out information to next year's freshmen class members. "Looks good on your college application," was a common theme on many of the handouts and signs that we saw throughout the night. I totally understand the importance of showing one's future educational institution or employer one's diverse interests and skills through the activities in which one is involved in high school. And as I talked with Lexi today as we were finalizing her class selections for next year, high school is really one of the only times in life when she'll have the freedom to explore a wide variety of activities and interests without also having to juggle financial and/or family responsibilities. I encouraged her to explore, explore, EXPLORE. But I also encouraged her to think about how, while she is exploring her diverse interests and talents, she will balance her time so that she can not only commit to teams/casts/groups, but that she can be committed to the activities in which she chooses to get involved.
I'm sure it will be a balance we will continually have to help her, and her sister, find as they continue to learn the great value of being committed to their variety of commitments.