I want to explain a bit about how my blog works. I update my blog and then don’t think about it again for a couple of months. I do write down little bits of information like cute things the children said or their first events as they come up so I can remember to include them in my next update. Then I start to feel like I need to get around to writing another update. I swirl ideas around in my head for what I want to write about. Most of them seem like interesting topics to me, but nothing concrete. Suddenly I will get “THE” idea. Until I get one, I can’t work up the motivation to do a single thing with the blog. Here are some ideas I had for this blog update
-My journey with the vaccination debate.
-My struggle against life’s distractions.
-Nothing. Just stick to the facts.
-The Bible journal I am writing for my children.
But, in the end it was none of these. This time I am going to write about my struggle with our culture’s obsession with getting our children involved in every imaginable activity. The reason I want to write about this is because if my children ever grow up feeling like I missed the boat with encouraging them in the activities they weren’t involved in, they will need to know what our rational was for the limited activities we do allow them to participate in. I often get the feeling that if our children aren’t doing t-ball, soccer, piano lessons, ballet, boy scouts, swimming lessons, foreign languages classes, homeschool coop activities, every known Vacation Bible School within a 10 mile radius, and day camps throughout the summer, then I am short changing them somehow.
This has been such a major struggle to me partially because we haven’t gotten our children involved in many activities outside of our church. They do AWANA’s at our church on Wednesday night. Evan and Harrison played t-ball for one season last year and Julia took French lessons for a few months. Just those two activities (plus AWANA) were a stress to our schedule, let alone adding any of the other activities to it.
I hear about the activities those around me get their kids into and immediately I feel one of two things depending on my mood. First-and-foremost I feel like a failure. I feel like an inadequate mother because I am not exposing my children to every possible skill or experience they can build their lives on. The second way I can feel is frustrated, not with myself, but with a culture of parents who believe they are doing their children a favor by leaving their learning completely in the hands of others and/or who want their kids out of their hair all of the time. I really don’t want to write much about the motivations of parents who fill their children’s schedules to the max for a couple of reasons. First, most people would get defensive and discredit everything else I have to say. Second, the point of this diatribe is not to make an argument for why some parents are bad, or why society is messed up, or to make anyone feel guilty. As parents, most of us are trying to do our best. I just want to explain my motivation for the decisions I am making. Maybe I will even end up encourage other parents like me. I know for me, reflecting on and coming to terms with my own beliefs on this topic has been a great relief, to-be-sure.
This fall we are planning to put Evan into Boy Scouts, and we are looking to put Julia into ballet. Stephen is an outdoorsy kind of person and Evan loves camping and spending time with Daddy, So we thought Boy Scouts would be a good fit for our family. Julia loves to go to the ballet. We have gone with other girls her age and watched them spin in their seats, but her eyes are fixated on the dancers. She spends weeks, in the living room, trying out the moves she saw at the ballet and puts on private dance recitals for us. She reminds me nearly every day that she wants to take ballet classes.
I remember when I was a child I really wanted to take tap dancing and ballet. I would practice my made up moves at home and wish and hope with my whole heart that my parents would enroll me dance classes. I never was, and for a long time I regretted that about my childhood. It wasn’t an overwhelming, self-pitying sort of regret. It was more like a “what if” sort of regret, but I still wasted some level of energy blaming my parents for that.
Here’s the deal that I keep coming back to with this topic, and the main point of my bog update, really. I was raised in a family that valued music, travel, politics, and church activities. I toyed with running track for a bit and did a few other fleeting activities, but I spent the bulk of my childhood playing instruments (viola and piano), singing, and traveling the world. I was in Missionettes (an Assembly of God’s version of Girl Scouts) church musicals and youth groups. Jeremy and I were involved in all sorts of political events where we have had close interactions with several very recognizable political figures, as well as getting involved in the campaigns of my father and other family members. The activities I was involved in were complimentary to what my family valued and what we could do together.
Honestly, I have the grace of one-flippered walrus, so dance classes were just a pipe dream for me, but also they were completely out of the realm of my family’s experience. God put me in that family, and that family valued what they did, and from that extended some PRETTY amazing life experiences. They may not have been what, in my immaturity, seemed like the perfect fit for me, but they were exactly what God meant for me. He could have given me a world-class ballerina mother or given my brother a concert pianist father so he could be an overly accomplished musician in his own right (though I happen to think he is), but He didn’t, and He knows best.
I partially struggle with idea of putting Julia into ballet, and not to sell her short, but I don’t think it will last. Stephen and I are not ballerinas (though it amuses me to picture that).Nor do we have any experience in the art world. If Julia does persist in a passion for ballet, we will encourage her. Her passion for it already has prompted us to at least let her try. However, I think in the end it will be more our outdoorsy, church activity oriented, traveling, family experience, technology minded, hospitality loving, critically thinking family values that will persist with her into adulthood because that is who we are; who God made us to be. Boy scouts fall right in line with that, and when I am making decisions for how to get them involved in activities in the future, I will be evaluating it under the paradigm of “How does this activity enhance our family experience”, the family God made us.
Now, as an adult, I am not the least bit interested in politics. I only recently and very reluctantly joined the choir at my church. I no longer play musical instruments nor do I attend the same denomination of church my parents attended when I was a child. However, every one of those experiences from my childhood formed me into the unique individual that I am today, and honestly, I think that only goes to demonstrate my point more clearly. It was not the activities that made me who I am, it was the role my family played in every aspect of my life that made the biggest impact.
I do want to add that if one of the kids find getting involved in a completely unique activity is important enough to make a solid case for it, by all means, I plan to let them try. However, I won’t be enrolling them in anything without our family’s role in mind. God doesn’t work exactly the same way in every situation. If we are to step outside of our realm of experience, I will trust God to reveal that to us and make it work for our family. However, short of a clear word from God on the topic, I am going to avoid overly scheduling my children in every imaginable activity and instead work to form a solid family foundation for future success wherever God takes them.
Now to stop over scheduling myself. . .
-is totally in love with P90X work out videos and will happily do an entire 1 ½ hour video without a break.
-was selected as AWANA clubber of the year this year. When asked how he felt about it he said, “Oh, I knew I would be”. Nice.
-has become passionate about working for and save up money.
-finished his kindergarten year (with first grade material) last week.
-was selected for AWANA Olympics again this year. We were able to watch the event with cousins Quin, Aaron, and Lauren, Uncle Jeremy, Aunt Natalie, Grandma and Grandpa Ringsmuth, which meant the world to him.
-has begun reading and enjoying the Magic Tree house series of chapter books.
-is a world class tattle-tale, but, OH, are we working on that.
-prayed faithfully with Julia and Harrison for over a year for his Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Sheila, to get a kidney transplant she desperately needed. A couple of months ago a woman at our church was found to be a match and about a month ago the transplant was successfully performed. It was awesome to walk through that with the kids. There is a picture below of the kids with Mrs. Sheila when we brought her a meal during her recovery.
-is either playing the X-box or thinking about playing the X-box.
-told Evan and Harrison one day while watching the cement truck repair our front sidewalk: “Evan, Jessica Warthan likes everything in the world except black and gray so we have to tell her to like gray because cement is gray and that’s in the world”!! Now THAT is some sweet logic.
-told me one night, “Mommy, Daddy used my mermaid towel to dry Eli off after his bath last night and I was NOT a fan of that! . . . . . What does ‘fan’ mean, Mommy”?
-Turned 5 years old in April and had the princess/hello kitty/tea party/ballerina hybrid, sleepover, birthday party of the year. She has been working on the schedule of events for the party since her last one.
-finished her second and final year of AWANA Cubbies and is onto Sparkies with Evan in the fall. . . Kindergarten. . . whoa.
-don’t make the mistake of calling green his favorite color when it is, in fact, his “favorite, favorite color”.
-finished his first year of AWANA Cubbies.
-LOVES to rub his head on Eli’s. At first I thought it was a jealously thing or an aggressive thing, especially since he many times pins Eli to the ground to do it. However, I now know that it is a loving thing. He grinds his teeth and loves on that baby while rubbing heads even though Eli head butts him to get away. I have to break them apart numerous times a day. You can see him doing in pictures below.
-has become a very huggy and kissy boy.
-is still crying hysterically at the drop of a hat.
-is becoming quite the artist of coloring pages.
-turns 4 years old tomorrow. I just really, really, really cannot believe that.
-plays only with his cars from the movie Cars (Cars cars).
-supposedly turned 2 years old 2 weeks ago, which is actually impossible, and I still don’t believe it.
-loves to play with balls, something which often times has me saying things that inspire some pretty strange looks from those around me. For example, “Eli, quit playing with your brother’s balls”, or “Grab your balls before we go”, and so forth. I hear it as it’s coming out of my mouth, can’t stop it, and it makes me feel like a 7th grade boy.
-calls his belly button a tummy button. Now we all say tummy button, and I hope it never stops.
-is obsessed with our white Nissan Altima, probably because he almost never gets to ride in it. Whenever Stephen and I leave the house without the kids he says, “You go buy buy white car”? When we get back, even if it’s the next morning after he wakes up he says, “Have fun white car”? He talks about that white car throughout the day and cries when we put him into the truck when the Nissan is parked next to it.
-is always telling Stephen, “I wuv oo, Daddy”.
-is a rowdy, talkative, and tough, but sweet natured boy. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, he has become my easiest child. He is really very happy and independent. Odd stuff considering he was such a grumpy baby.
-absolutely, for sure, without a doubt, does not like to rub heads with his affectionate older brother, Harrison.
-is going through a naked phase. He is always stripping down to nothing. I make him keep his diaper on, but several times a day I find myself looking around for it and putting it back on.
-converted his crib into a toddler bed last week after I came downstairs one morning last week to find him down there waiting for me. (All of our bedrooms are upstairs.)
-eats ants. This should not come as a surprise.
-has, what we call, the “Eli Stink Eye”. It’s scary and pictured below. Beware.
We just finished reading this favorite childhood chapter book of mine. It was fun to read it with the kids and an awesome, must-read book for all families. Two of my favorite memories: Reading this book with my Mother and brother and now sharing it with my children. I can’t wait to read it again for Harrison and Elijah some day.
These pictures were missing at the end of my last blog update, so I am squeezing them in here. We had a blast building this rediculously filthy snowman. When he melted the next day there was an large pile of leaves left where he stood.
We had to give Harrison his birthday presents yesterday before Stephen left town for work. Tomorrow Evan, Harrison and I will go to play minigolf and go-carts with a couple of his friends for his birthday.