herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Should I worry that our children are doing too much?

My young ones' busy lives make us look like pushy parents, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

moonrise kingdom
moonrise kingdom

In many ways I think we're a typical family. We want our kids to try new things, develop new interests and enjoy a healthy upbringing. Life feels busy, especially at the weekends, but we plod along merrily with our tightly packed schedule.

Upon hearing that I just signed my youngest two up to Saturday gymnastics classes a friend told me that I was mad. "They do so much during the week already. Why don't you give yourselves a break?" she suggested.

One look at our weekly schedule and you'd be hard pushed not to agree.

Monday afternoon there's swimming lessons for two. Tuesdays it's drama for two followed by Gaelic training for one. Wednesday is football fun for two.

Training

On Thursday afternoon it's music fun. There's also the option of additional Gaelic training on Thursday evenings but we think a little free time is important too.

Friday evenings one goes to Beavers. Saturdays there's a Gaelic match for one and now gymnastics for two. On Sunday morning we've rugby for one.

Written like that I agree we look mildly insane. In my defence, three of these activities take place at our sons' after-school club, which they attend three days a week while we're working. The football training and music are free, but we pay extra for the speech and drama. If these activities weren't on offer I'd probably just choose one of them, most likely, the speech and drama.

When you look at everything the kids do in their spare time I like to think it offers a healthy mix.

The eldest, whose activity list is by far the most extensive, enjoys a balance of sports and social activities.

Drama teaches confidence, recall (they perform two shows a year) and discipline, while Beavers teaches new skills, team work and introduces them to the concept of having a social conscience from an early age.

My middle child tried GAA for a year and hated it. Ditto rugby. Rather than accept that he doesn't like sport (which he recently declared) I let him try out gymnastics.

As a kid who enjoys swinging on climbing frames he simply loves this new class. It's early days yet, and while this is our most expensive extra-curricular activity, I'm delighted my youngest two are having fun while being active and growing strong.

Lessons

When I was a kid we did swimming lessons, occasional drama classes and went to Cubs and Brownies.

My brothers weren't into sport and my athletics participation almost always took place within school hours.

Put plainly, my parents were spared the Saturday slog of hoofing us around to matches (though they would have done so happily had it been required.)

I'm not sure if my experiences have informed my decision to allow my kids try everything, or if I'm just typical of today's parents?

Plenty of friends have kids with equally busy schedules and while some experts argue that too much extracurricular activity is bad for them I'm not yet convinced.

So long as the kids are enjoying the activities what's wrong with encouraging teamwork, exercise and new hobbies?

I'm too close to the situation to see if it's all looks a bit intense to an outsider, but I do know I'm not pushing anyone to become the next Brian O'Driscoll or Chris O'Dowd.

The schedule may look mad to you, but ultimately we're just hoping all the extra activities will go towards giving our kids a well-rounded education.

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