May 8, 2010

So many choices, so little time

Soccer. Skating. Ballet. Hebrew school. Math tutor. Karate. Chinese dance. Tap dance. Jazz dance.

Add your kid's activity to the list. Children today are booked from dawn to dinner and beyond. Every now and then some hardy parental rebel decides "enough!" and takes their kid to the playground, but it doesn't work anymore. No one is there. Everyone else is at soccer, skating, ballet, Hebrew school, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

And every now and then the activities run up against each other. Our spring ice show lost a bunch of kids to a local dance recital this year. One parent suggested that we change the date of our show, because her child did not want to choose between them.


Come again?

One of the most difficult thing for teachers in our current version of child rearing society is the fact that children are never made to choose. Every answer is yes. But sometimes, you must choose, because the world is not going to rearrange itself around your convenience and desires, much less a child's.

I'm extremely flattered and gratified at a child's disappointment in not being able to skate in a show, or take a second class, or a private lesson. But I understand that sometimes other things take priority. With younger children (I'd say 8 or under), mom and dad can make the choice, and then just present it to the child as a done deal. Don't even let them know there was a choice to be made. If the child says "skating show? WHAT skating show?" just say, we're not doing that, because we're visiting Grandma that weekend! (or whatever). For a child who can backtrack that decision and understand a choice was made, you can make them choose, or tell them you chose for them. Teens? Gotta choose. It's part of growing up.

My point is, not doing the ice show, or the competition, or the dance recital, or going to the birthday party, is a reasonable decision. Parents often make this more fraught than it needs to be. If you're tired of skating in the Freestyle 5 number because you've done it five times, well, just don't do it. Don't gripe about it, don't complain about it. Simply skip the show this one time. In fact, you can still volunteer with a show you don't skate in--help out with the tots, or sell programs, or work in the costume shop.

If you have a conflicting dance recital, or chorus performance, or church pageant, choose the one that is more important, or flip that coin. Literally nothing is at stake in the eventual choice, but the socialization of a child is at stake in the choosing.


  1. This needed to be said.

  2. Why not let a young child choose? I would be able to explain to my 5 year old that a choice has to be made, and she'd choose. Why would I chose for her? It's not me who is going to do the show, or play soccer, or whatever, it's her. It should be her choice, I think.

  3. I'd say it depends on the child; a child capable of understanding that in fact choosing A means NOT doing B, then sure, let the kid choose. But frankly, I don't see why a 5-year old should get to call the shots.