The last snowflakes just fell on this year’s Nutcracker ballet. It was beautiful—truly lovely. I wish I could just watch and enjoy the show—but instead I sit with shoulders tense, holding my program in a death grip and barely breathing. My eyes following my fourteen year-old daughter’s every move.
Partly because I know the hours it took, the blood, and the tears…or at least the blood and tears she let me see. I know there were personal hurts, struggles, and pain I never saw…And so from my seat in Row H—watching the culmination of hours and months of work, I just want it to be her best. Whatever that is…I want her to feel like she left her best on that stage.
I felt the exact same way (actually maybe a little worse—like I wanted to throw-up) when I would watch my oldest daughter compete in gymnastics. Gymnastics meets are so INTENSE—not for the faint of heart!
But The JOY
There is so much joy in watching your child do something they love—do it with excellence. Of course, I’m a MOM—so there is a lot of pride mixed in with all that joy…But I think there’s something more to it…It’s the overwhelming confirmation, that all the sacrifices are worth it.
Your sacrifices. The driving to practice, to rehearsal, across town to buy the gear, the money, going to the meetings, volunteering…
Your child’s sacrifices. The parties they skipped, the sleep they lost, the ice baths, the doctor visits, the bloody blisters, the broken bones, the school they missed, the clubs and activities they will never be part of…
Your family’s sacrifices. The family dinners you don’t have, the vacations you can’t take (because you can’t miss practice/games/shows/rehearsals), the time little people have to spend in the car or at practice and games…
Is it Really Worth It?
“What the Even Heck?”…Why are we doing all this? Spending all this?
Well those answers are different for every family, every child…For us, participating in serious training at a competitive or pre-professional level has had numerous benefits. Here are some reasons we make the sacrifices:
Character growth is probably a given—an obvious reason many parents encourage participation in sports and intensive activities in the arts. Kids have an opportunity to see and live out hard work and goal setting. They experience the growth and improvement—the win, the show, the performance…it all comes together. They’ve learned to press on through discouragement, set-backs, bad-days, and failures—they learn and live determination.
Grit. Mental Toughness. Responsibility. Grace. Fairness. All character traits deeply woven into their pursuit of excellence.
Good Training—You Get What You Pay For!
Once my kids found their “thing,” I really wanted them to receive the best training we could afford. I figured if we are spending all this time and money—my kid needs to learn how to do it correctly from the best teachers and coaches available.
One—so they won’t develop bad habits by learning improper techniques.
Two—because they will be less likely to get hurt due to poor coaching, cheap equipment, or bad technique.
Three—If they want to become really good and among the elite in their activity—I want them to have that opportunity.
Four—I once heard a wise momma say she wanted her kids to have at least one marketable skill by the time they were 18. Often the activities and skills our kids cultivate can be translated into some type of job opportunity—be it a career or short-term position. Someday your child may want to teach or coach their skill and passion. My 16 year-old has retired from gymnastics—but her 10 years of training prepared her to be an excellent coach. She loves her job—and it sure beats a lot of jobs her friends have! My fourteen year-old even makes money talking about dance on YouTube!
A special benefit has been the friendships my kids have developed while participating in sports and dance. The shared experiences kids have while working, performing, and competing together are priceless and build a unique bond of friendship. Other people don’t quite understand their lives the way fellow team mates and performers do…
And as homeschoolers, my kids have especially cherished these friendships. Getting my children involved in activities they love has been the most successful way I’ve found to help them build authentic peer relationships.
Important Adult Mentors
My kids have had amazing adults in their lives—coaches, instructors, and teachers who pour their lives into helping kids. Personally, as homeschoolers—I’ve especially valued the influence of their instructors and coaches. This has given my kids countless opportunities to be accountable, relate to, and learn from other adults–who are not me!
Credit For School
I’ve been able to count my kids’ activities as credit for physical education, fine arts, and technology. If you’re homeschooling, don’t miss out on translating your child’s passions to education credits! The Homescholar, Lee Binz—does a great job of explaining this in her book, Delight Directed Learning!
When it’s NOT worth it…
Sometimes all the sacrifices are not worth it.
First of all if your child doesn’t LOVE it—don’t do it.
Do you have to nag them to get ready for practice? Are they asking to stay home? Do they cry or say they want to quit?
Do they get ready without you asking? Are they begging you to get there early? Do they express joy and excitement about class or practice?
Over the years, I’ve been surprised at how many times kids have wanted to quit, but their parents wouldn’t let them…This makes zero sense to me—it’s just too much money, too much time, and often, too much on our kids’ bodies to force something they don’t really love. Remember—this has to be their dream, their passion…
Some activities are more dangerous than others—and some kids are just more prone to injury. If your child is always hurt—you may truly want to consider ending the activity. This was the heartbreaking end to my daughter’s gymnastics career. She had battled many injuries over the years, but a traumatic ankle break ultimately ended her training. Thankfully, she saw it as an opportunity to try new things and trusted that God had a different plan for her.
Marriage and Money
If kid activities are causing strain on your marriage or finances—please, take a step back and reevaluate. Try not to be resentful—pray about it. Look at the bigger picture and approach it as a team. In 3 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years…what will really be important? Your family and marriage must be the priority.
Celebrate Your Kids
Cherish each performance and season…You never know when or how things might change. Kids change—what they love and are interested in changes. They may get injured or want to try something new. So enjoy each step—celebrate the journey with them. Let them know that you love watching them do what makes them happy. But someday, if it isn’t making them happy anymore, it’s okay to walk away.
It is so easy for our children to have their identities wrapped up in what they do—as if it defines who they are. Help them see they are so much more than any given activity. Encourage them to give thanks for the gifts and talents God has given them—and to follow His guidance for their life.
In a busy family—finding balance is always a challenge. How are you making it work in your family? Do the benefits of kid activities outweigh the sacrifices?
Sending a big hug to all my fellow dance moms….gym moms…soccer moms…band moms…baseball moms…and football moms!! (I’ve worn all those hats!)
Actually, just sending a big hug to all my fellow moms—I wish I could help you with the carpool!