One of the hardest decisions to make as a family — as a parent in particular — is how you’re going to manage family activities, especially in the case where one parent has a demanding career and is pursuing professional success. It can become especially difficult for the other spouse to manage all those activities on those occasions where they are supposed to be in three places at once.
It’s so easy to go to extremes. I know many families who limit activities to one per child. This might be great for their family, but I haven’t found it to be successful for our life or the best for our children.
Teresa and I want to allow our children to pursue their dreams. It’s at this point in their lives that they get to explore what they’re truly good at and what gifts and talents they’ve been given. Limiting them to one activity doesn’t allow them to explore their gifts and experience the world.
At the same time, I know plenty of families who go to the opposite extreme. They want their children to do everything. The child’s schedule dominates the family calendar. In fact, I would go so far as to say the family revolves around the children’s activities.
The reality for me is that there’s a balance to be struck. In our family, we look at every individual differently. Just as each family has unique circumstances, each child does as well.
What are the activities that the child has shown a genuine interest in? What are the activities the child has shown a genuine love for? What are the activities that will help boost the child’s confidence or other areas of personal development? What activities will challenge the child and make them work hard to form a disciplined work ethic?
All of these are important considerations, and we take them into account.
My son Joseph, for example, has always shown a love for baseball. Not only is he naturally gifted, he genuinely loves the game. This passion has driven him to want to excel at it. It’s through this passion that we’ve been able to teach him many life lessons, like:
- You have to work hard.
- You’re not always going to be the best.
- You need to be a good sport and have humility even in victory.
We have invested a lot in baseball for Joseph, because he’s shown that it’s something he truly loves and desires, that he’s been given the gifts and talents, and that it’s a positive influence on his life.
At the same time, we don’t limit him to just baseball. We want to give him the experience of trying Scouts, of trying other sports if he so chooses (which he doesn’t), and of trying other types of activities that expose him to different things.
None of these other things has risen to the level of baseball for him, though they have provided life lessons. For that reason, we allow him to focus his time on baseball. He participates in the other activities, without letting them dominate.
We do similar things with our other children. Sarah, for example, loves to dance, but not just because Irish dance is her favorite thing. No, I think it’s as much social for her. We use Irish dance as a mechanism for her to build friendships and relationships, which she needs as a shy child and someone who’s a little bit more laid back. It’s a good thing for her to develop a long history with several people who share a common interest.
Again, we allow her to experience other things. Because dance isn’t as demanding — she’s not trying to win the world championships like Joseph is in baseball — we allow her to have what might be a higher level of involvement in her other activities than Joseph has.
Every family and every child are different. Ask yourself what you’re trying to get from the activities. You’re not here just to run children around from one activity to the next, but you are here to help them develop as people, to provide for them, and to have family activities and moments that are centered around your kids.
Those are all good and positive things: don’t abuse them.