As the calendar turns to August, I’m seeing Facebook posts and emails about registering my kids for music lessons and gymnastics classes and other activities. I cringe, wondering where the summer went and feeling not quite rested enough to gear up for another school year of running hither and yon most evenings.
And as if soccer, gymnastics, cheerleading, flag football, piano and flute weren’t enough (albeit not ALL at the same time), both girls want to add more. After a five-week immersion in musical theatre, they both asked to take voice lessons. And maybe dance classes. Oh, and Sophie wants to add a tumbling class so she can get her back handspring – but that’s in addition to gymnastics classes.
I can hear you now – because I’ve already been told this by other people – “you just have to MAKE them choose.”
They’re 7 and 10 years old. Sophie’s career goals are currently parlaying an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics into an NFL career, and after she retires from that, writing and illustrating books, maybe being a chef or a fashion model, and now, she wants to come back and do enough shows at Totem Pole Playhouse in the summers to earn a spot on the “Fabulous 25” (a wall backstage with photos of the actors who have appeared in at least 25 shows there). Annabelle, well, she’s still somewhere in the gymnast-cheerleader-actress range of career goals.
I also don’t think they need to pick a path yet in terms of polishing up their college applications. I know quality extracurriculars are important, but I’m pretty sure colleges aren’t too worried about their resume from age 7. Building a good foundation is far more important.
I believe now is the time to try things and not worry about specializing. In a few years, the opportunities won’t be there, and decisions will be made for them in the form of making a team or not making a team, or getting cast in a show or chosen for a select performing group. I mean, I secretly wanted to audition for the fall musical when I was in high school, but my cheerleading coach did not accept even the occasional conflict with our practice schedules, and I was too scared to try to figure out a way to juggle both.
I’m also a big believer that arts and athletics aren’t polar opposites; in fact, I think elements of each make you better in the other. Both pursuits require discipline and practice for improvement. I think a team dynamic can apply to a theater production, because actors have to work together and staging a scene is a lot like running a play. NFL players have taken ballet classes in the offseason to help with their agility. Being physically fit certainly helps with an intensive rehearsal and show schedule – if you can maintain the energy to cheer a doubleheader of basketball games, you can get through a two-show day in the theater, no sweat.
All that to say, there aren’t enough hours in the day for them to do everything they want to do (not to mention the cost for all these lessons and teams), and there’s also that little matter of keeping up their grades in school. Somehow or other, we’ll need to make some choices.
How do you whittle down your kids’ activities? I’d love to hear your advice (as long as it’s not just “make them pick.”)