I hate to admit it, but when I was raising my oldest daughter, I basically followed the status quo. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, and I just did as I was told by my doctor, family, and her daycare providers.
I figured I was young, and these people knew a lot more than me, so I should listen to them, right?
This is also before the Internet was really a place to find any answer you seek, and with school and work, I didn’t have a lot of time for reading outside of assignments anyway.
But this time around, I do have the time to decide for myself how I want to parent, and the type of childhood my children experience. So this time around, I’m reading those parenting books and blogs, and I’m learning that doing more is not necessarily best.
I’m finding that you’d be hard pressed to find a parenting expert (what does that mean, anyway? How does one become a parenting “expert?” Anyway, they offer some food for thought.) that will tell you that stuffing your schedule with activities is beneficial to children.
There’s this pressure on parents to have their kids in activities nearly from the day they are born. There’s ECFE, story times, and baby gyms, then there’s preschools with years-long waiting lists, gymnastics, and sports – all before kids get into Kindergarten!
But have we stepped back and asked how much value those activities actually have on the big picture? We’re told that babies’ brains are forming at incredible speeds, and much of the brain is active while they are young, but does that mean we should be stuffing those little brains with as many activities as possible?
What happened to kids being curious? Do they have time to sit and wonder about something? Or are they being spoon fed an answer within seconds of someone spoon feeding them a curious question?
Then there’s the question on what we can provide to our kids versus what a structured class can provide. I grappled with this over the last couple weeks as I tried to decide whether to sign my kids up for homeschool co-op classes. I could sign them up for science and art: two classes I don’t really have much of a plan to cover over the next year anyway.
The toughest part is I know they would enjoy the classes. They would meet new kids and get to do fun projects, but at what expense?
The cost of busyness
For me, I would need to start planning out their lunch the day before, and make sure I have a crock pot meal ready before we leave in the morning. Even just for two 1-hour classes, nearly our entire day would be consumed with getting the kids ready, bundled during the winter and buckled up (because that takes upwards of 30 minutes, of course), driving to the classes, the actual class, lunch, driving back, and transitioning back home.
The kicker that really made me realize it wouldn’t be a good idea, is after corralling my littles all day in a place where they can’t run free, I am totally fried by the time I get home, and not the best mom I want to be.
How many of us are at wit’s end because we are just trying to get our kids somewhere on time and juggling mealtimes in between?
So, after thinking about all of this for a while, this article, Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues came across my feed. This struck a chord.
Yes! How easy is it to feel like you’re failing in life, or that you’re not good enough, when you’re trying to do so many things in so little time?
Can your kids really be good at soccer, Qur’an memorization, STEM club, and art camp, all at the same time? And if they can, how is their school work doing? And beyond all of that, how is their childhood? Do they get to explore? Do they get to be curious?
Doing less, having less
I’m finding that our trimmed down schedule is good for all of us. We still get to see friends and family; I have more time to take care of my home, family, and myself; and we are all more patient with each other because our energies aren’t used up with scheduled tasks.
In addition, simplifying what we have in our home has a similar effect. Simplifying toys and objects is an entirely different subject to explore, but I would encourage you to really think about what you need, what you want, and why. Kids do not need to have a toy for every imaginable make-believe situation. Let your throw blanket be a magic carpet, a cape, and a picnic blanket.
Let kids use that beautiful imagination of theirs with less busyness in their time and their stuff.
After reading the article from Raised Good, I’ve added Simplicity Parenting to my Amazon wishlist.