Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Balancing children's activities

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What drives us to make chores out of recreation, to turn everything into a race? Surely we should do some things purely for their own sake, not for any end goal, potential prize or glory? Photo / Thinkstock
What drives us to make chores out of recreation, to turn everything into a race? Surely we should do some things purely for their own sake, not for any end goal, potential prize or glory? Photo / Thinkstock

Parents behaving badly at school rugby games. Little girls in tears at netball matches. Referees and umpires abused. These are the dramatic stories we read about in the newspapers that reveal the ugly side of children's sport.

Beyond the headlines are less spectacular yet more widespread concerns that parents must confront: that is, exactly which sports and hobbies our children should participate in? And how many after-school activities are appropriate?

Too many and we give the perception of being ambitious pushy parents.

Too few and we look like lazy mothers unwilling to do the requisite chauffeuring, coaching and uniform purchasing.

It's difficult to strike the right balance between keeping our children challenged and interested without making them worn-out and resentful.

It's little wonder this is a perennial struggle; there's a plethora of activities on offer including art, athletics, brownies, cheerleading, cricket, cycling, dancing, drama, golf, gymnastics, hockey, judo, karate, music, netball, rock-climbing, rugby, scouts, skating, soccer and tennis. What to choose, what to choose?

My biggest concern is that I'm subconsciously trying to create a mini-me. My eight-year-old has been snow skiing, playing tennis and riding ponies since the age of three. It's no coincidence that these happen to be my three favoured activities.

Sometimes I feel guilty I've railroaded her in these directions. What if she was destined to be New Zealand's next orienteering, volley-balling, shot-putting or archery champion?

So far she hasn't had a lot of luck in taking up sports that I have no affinity with.

I also feel guilty that she's not doing a school sport.

Netball and hockey were offered through the school for the first time this year. We turned this opportunity down as we're already busy enough with our chosen pastimes.

In the interests of a manageable timetable and retaining some crucial blobbing time I've decided we'll have to abandon something if she picks up a new activity. But I wonder what we'd drop as she's acquired a reasonable level of skill in all her sports and I'm reluctant to lose the momentum she's gained.

Does that make me a little bit like the ambitious fathers of Andre Agassi, the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods who - by all accounts, -deliberately and painstakingly created world champions of their offspring?

And if it does, is that a bad thing? Don't we all want our kids to be good at something?

The other issue I'm confused about is our natural penchant for transforming pleasurable pursuits into competitions.

So far my daughter has played tennis for the love of it but now I'm on the verge of signing her up for interclub.

She's played the piano with great enjoyment for a few years and next year she'll probably start taking exams.

What drives us to make chores out of recreation, to turn everything into a race? Surely we should do some things purely for their own sake, not for any end goal, potential prize or glory?

My daughter spent about a year doing handstands and forward rolls whenever she had a few seconds free. At lunchtimes and after school it seemed she was standing on her hands more often than on her feet. Whenever her tennis coach turned his back she'd sneak in a crafty cartwheel on the court.

All of which made me ponder whether to sign her up for gymnastics classes.

As it turned out, it was just a phase which is now officially over, but still I occasionally wonder if my failure to act thwarted the career of a potentially great gymnast before it had even begun.

Parental guilt about such matters, it seems, is inevitable.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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