BrocanteHome has moved to Wordpress!

Hello and thank you so much for dropping by.
I'm Alison, that's my little boy Finn, and we are absolutely thrilled to have you at BrocanteHome!

Brocante has been online for five years and with soooo much to see and do here, the best way to make the most of the site is to sign up for the monthly newsletter and get my scrumptious way of vintage housekeeping delivered directly to your in-box...

Get BrocanteHome Mail!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Extra-Curricular Activity

While I may be all sweetness and light online, in reality I can be a bit of a cow. While my Dad tried to impress upon me the importance of reading How To Win Friends and Influence People I was too busy obsessing over the naughty bits in the rite of passage that is Judy Blume's Forever to be concerned about my all too obvious lack of social skills. And so it came to pass that I grew up firm in the belief that I AM RIGHT and YOU ARE WRONG and no more is this evident than should you find yourself in discussion with me about anything remotely babba related, because when it come's to parenting I (shamefully) KNOW I am right. Even when I'm clearly completely WRONG!

Now as you can imagine this is the kind of attitude that can get you into all kind of fixes when your entire social life is based around the school gates and every conversation you ever have with the suburban mommies in your Mommy possie naturally revolves around your respective children. While other women nod politely as they listen to each others experiences, I am there shouting my mouth off about my latest theories in not very progressive childcare, shaking my head vehmenently at anyone ludicrous enough to be following anything other than the Alison May School of Mothering and feeling sad in my heart for the little blighters unlucky enough to have the kind of Mummy who isn't me!

I know. Don't worry, there are times when I want to strangle me too.

And then my own little blighter started shooting all my parenting skills sky high and I have to eat humble pie in the cupboard under the stairs and pretend I reserve the right to change my mind in public, should I then find myself having to explain why I am now embracing something I previously loudly deplored.

Take for instance the question of extra-curricular activities. These, my darling oh so tolerant friends, know I could once barely stomach. No! Not for my child the dragging off to football three times a week and karate on a Friday and Recorder lessons at lunchtimes and drama class followed by swimming and a quick shimmy under the monkey bars at the baby-gym on a Saturday. No! Of course my son wouldn't be having extra maths lessons, joining Scouts or Sunday school or Big boy Tumble Tots or playing the violin or learning street dance, or indeed doing just about anything that didn't happen between the hours of nine and three, or ate into the empty, just being time I have long believed paramount to the development of the kind of wild imagination I think every child should be blessed with.

So for a while I stuck to my guns. I looked mildly disapproving at the very idea of any child having to endure another lesson of whatever when they crawl home white-faced with baby exhaustion after a long day in reception and I failed to feel sympathetic when one Mummy after another bemoaned their own lack of time due to their willingness to spend every spare minute ferrying little children from pillar to post. I was that Mother. The superior being you want to smack.

And then the rebellion began. The occupational therapist suggested that Finley might benefit from the discipline of martial arts and so off to karate he went. Then Finley himself announced that his friend Mark was brilliant at football and if I didn't let him go to to Saturday morning footie he would DIE and because one cannot sacrifice one's child for the sake of half an hour shivering at the side of a cold field, I said ok to that too and before I knew it I was dallying with the idea of swimming lessons and a weekly half hour with a tutor to help him with his writing and maybe even drama lessons and then he announced his intention to be a model/actor (!) when he grew up and I, flailing permanently in single mummy guilt, decided that drama lessons it was and promptly delivered him to an empty school having mixed up the starting dates for the class that was going to make my baby a star!

And so it goes on. I'm riding a coconut mat down the helter-skelter of IT'S ALL TOO MUCH and all of a sudden I find myself helpless to resist the kind of peer pressure little boys and other Mummies apply in great big dollops and I have to apologise to Kath who bears the brunt of my most outraged and usually desperately dull parenting rants because it is clearer by the day that I haven't got the courage of my convictions and will go on delivering my child to activities I suspect neither of us much enjoy, when in my heart of hearts I know that it isn't a man in a football kit  or a scary lady with a whistle at the side of a swimming pool who will help my little boy become the strong, imaginative, creative man I know he will be, but instead, the cosy hours spent lying next to me on the floor, telling me in great detail the reason why Willie Wonka is the scariest film ever made that will make all the difference. The time he spends apparently talking to himself, narrating games of such imaginative magnitude I cannot ever hope to understand them, that will shape his creativity, and all the other rituals that we maintain as a tiny family that will let him be the kind of little boy happiest dangling upside down off his chair, singing at the top of his voice and dancing by himself when he thinks no-one is watching, and  ultimately provide him with the ability to entertain himself without constant stimulation. 

I KNOW this and yet and yet and yet: I could be wrong.

Tell me now how much is too much? At what point did I begin to lose confidence in that which I was sure of?  Is that what happens, do we begin to doubt ourselves the minute our children assert themselves? When they become not mini-me's but little people in their own right?

I really don't think I was cut out to be a Soccer Mom.


Gena said...

Maybe it isnt the man in the football kit or the swimming pool lady who will make Finn into the man he is meant to be,but it cant harm him Alison,you are thinking too far ahead honey! he is a little boy,you just have to let him try all this stuff,I agree it will be your lovely rituals and the time and effort you give him which will remain in his memory,but he is learning the art of socialising,and in my experience no matter how short lived the extra activities are,they are all part of the journey,peer pressure does play a part also!and we Mummies just need to go with the flow! relax! you are doing an amazing job!xxx

Alison May said...

Thanks for that Gena, you know the kind of frenzy I get myself in once I start thinking too deeply!x

Anonymous said...

I think children quickly get fired up with enthusiasm to do things but quite often equally as quickly lose interest. It would be a shame to curb his enthusiasm so I think it's great that he's trying new things.

However, I also agree with you that too many children have every single waking minute of every single day day filled with some club or other. I've read that these children become quite unable to entertain themselves because they've never really learned to become lost in their own thoughts and develop their imagination. So no, to my mind you've been quite right to encourage 'down time', home with Mum.

Lisa said...

Alison I totally understand your quandary. As a child I was dragged from one class to the next, from ballet, ballroom dancing, drama, tap, brownies, there was rarely a day that I didn’t have a class and as soon as I was old enough to reason with my mum I stopped going to the lot. And now as a parent I find that I am torn between the guilt of feeling that I should be encouraging them to "do something" other than just school and knowing how much I despised it myself. I guess if the activity is something they enjoy doing and that the learning side of it is a bonus then great, it is when parents start to push the children into these things either to somehow fulfil their own dreams (which is I suspect the reason I was delivered to numerous classes each week) or to give their children an advantage over others, as though the competition for the best jobs has started already!

Deanna said...

I speak from the experience of a mother with two young adult *children*. Your initial instincts are correct. Most children today ARE over-scheduled. Only you and Finley can decide how much is too much but we found balance with one not-too-demanding physical activity and one music or art activity at a time. And we didn't do much of anything in the summers as I really believe that a long break doing nothing more taxing than playing is good for the soul. That's the sort of childhood I had and I wanted the same for my kids.

Anonymous said...

How gorgeous is your Finley.....but he is growing up fast...looks quite grown up now Alison. Enjoy every moment with him while you can ...these years are so precious and cant be replaced. Nothing wrong with just hanging out with Mummy. Hugs to you both ! Cookie xxx

Buffy said...

I agree with the other comentator who said you are thinking too far ahead.

I am reminded of my friends who said they would never let their children watch television whilst they were toddlers but then changed their minds when reality hit.

Although I am sure you are right to make sure every second is not filled up. Children (and adults) need some free time for spontaneity and imaginative play.

Mrs. N. said...

Deana has hit the nail on the head. As adults we know that we can't have or do everything we would like because there isn't time. Why should we set our children up for a let down when they become adults? Help them to choose wisely, to devote time and energy to one thing at a time. Only pay for those lessons that you can't give yourself. Do you swim? Then teach him yourself. Benefits to both of you as you get to spend time together. Maybe your dad would like to teach him something. No one grows up thinking their life is devoid of meaning because they didn't play football in first grade. At least no one with any sense.

lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lauren said...

Oh ugh...
Alison my sweet friend... just know this and this alone...


that's all you'll need :)

Sasha said...

In my experience, and that's all I can give you I'm afraid, you will find a natural balance between you both, in time.

I have never seen the harm in trying something new, and in fact it can benefit you both to socialise with other groups and Mums, but I would like to think I always spotted when the end was nigh.... like when my daughter lost interest in Tumble Tots (as evidenced by not joining in with circle song time and throwing the ball across the room instead of to the next child - and she'd been angelic every week until then...) or when the lovely dainty prancing in ballet at age 3 turned into disgruntled goose-stepping and complaints that the music was now, in fact, boring..... when taking the Rainbow pledge was too much of a commitment because she didn't feel she could stand and say what her heart didn't feel.... starting all the activities was a request from her, ending them all was a decision made when it was obviously not benefiting anyone. And I've never worried about it. Or missing the odd one if something better happens that day!

There are lessons I wish I had volunteered her for - like swimming - as she is now not as strong or as confident as her peers who did do lessons, and it could be a life saver, but on the whole she has naturally honed it down to the things she enjoys and has stuck to (karate, music instrument lessons, and the clubs she chose herself to do at lunchtimes). You know your child, you know you, and you have excellent communication with each other - the minute my daughter ever says "I don't want to do it any more" then it's over. Or what's the point?

Others here are right - don't think too far ahead, or get caught up in any feelings of obligation - go with the flow by now. Fin will want to dip his toes in many things his mates are doing, but many will be left by the wayside until he finds the ones he really wants to stick to himself - or not, as the case may be!

Me and my Mum still giggle about the one time she took me to try Girl's Brigade, and I turned my nose up in disgust at how they were all sitting round in silence sewing, or knitting etc, very demurely and, in my 'sophisticated' 7 year old opinion, far too stereotypically girly for my liking - I hissed for her to get me out of there sharpish!

Elizabeth said...

I feel this one so keenly. My boy is not yet four and the pressure is on. I proudly consider myself a beacon of bohemian freedom amongst soccer moms, until he expresses a desire to kick a ball at a net and then I start to consider buying a minivan, a baseball cap and some track pants.

My brothers and I were always able to take the lead in our balance of activities and have lots of time to get lost in the patterns on the ceiling and make costumes out of household discards and also go to ballet lessons or what have you. We're all pretty well-rounded so I hope it works for my kids too. Isn't the struggle just so universal?

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly...if he wants to go and u have the time/money then let him...but u are most definetely right.....doing nothing, letting him use his imagination and having downtime is really important...I think (like u) that these extra activities/lessons are badges of boasting/martydom for the parents at the school gates.

btw i have 1ds age 11 and 1dd age 9they do judo 2gether (cos they want to) ds does footie cos he loves it and dd does brownies and thats it...they go swimming when they ask to go and when i have time to take them.

Puttery Post!

Buy The BrocanteHome Vintage Housekeepers Planner Today and get organized with sixty pages of the prettiest downloadable forms and planners designed to transform the way you live your life...

Add to Cart