Dinner? Check! Water bottle? Check! Healthy snack? Check! Leotard? Check! Shorts that go over top of leotard or the whole outfit is ruined? Double Check! I quickly run over my list before picking up my daughter from school and rushing her to her 4:30 gymnastics class at Kanata Gymnosphere. We usually have about 20 minutes to eat dinner in the minivan, yes, I’m a proud minivan owner, and chat a little about our day before she has to get dressed for class.
This may sound chaotic to some parents, and admittedly it was at first, but it is normal routine for us now. To be perfectly honest I’ve grown to really enjoy that 20 minutes between school and gymnastics because we get a chance to talk, laugh and turn off life’s distractions for a little while. My daughter spends 16 hours a week at this gym so that one on one time before class starts is important for both of us.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “16 hours a week for a 6 year old?!? That’s crazy!!”, and I would have definitely agreed with you a year ago when we first walked into the gym. We started in a regular once a week class, which then jumped to 9 hours a week, then 12 and now 16. Every step of the way we hesitated, wondering if it was the right decision for our daughter. The thing is, she loves it, and she is really good at it. It also helps that the staff at Kanata Gymnosphere treat her like family from the minute she walks in until she leaves her session, and the focus, determination and discipline she has shown lets us know as parents that she is able to handle the workload.
All in all, between our daughter and son, we spend just over 20 hours a week at various organized activities and while the kids don’t ever complain about it, my wife and I definitely worry about the effects it could have on them, and ourselves. We keep a close eye on things such as the kids’ schoolwork, sleep patterns and general moods to make sure that the activities aren’t negatively affecting their day to day lives. It’s not just the kids we have to worry about either, as shuttling them all over the city and coordinating schedules for two working parents can be tricky and stressful as well, so we’ve had to be mindful of how this is affecting us as partners.
I’d love to sit here and act all-knowing but the truth is that I have no idea if we are doing the right thing for our kids by letting them spend so much time in extra-curricular activities. They don’t seem to be showing any signs of fatigue and their teachers have no complaints so we allow them to continue doing the things that bring them joy. We make sure to grab hold of any family/snuggle time we can get, eat dinners together when possible and talk to the kids a lot about how they are feeling. We’ve managed to strike a balance in there somewhere for the time being and hopefully we’ll fine tune it as time passes.
So, what’s the answer to the question of how much is too much when it comes to your child’s activities? I think the answer is that it depends on the child. Only you can know how your child reacts to different environments and workloads. What works for my kids may not necessarily work for yours, and that’s perfectly alright. As a former sports brat myself, my advice would be to let them experiment with new activities, gauge how they interact in them and talk to them about how they feel while doing it. Letting your children guide you as opposed to making the decisions for them is always a step in the right direction.
If you want to talk more about youth sports and activities, I’d love to hear from you in the comments or over on my Facebook page at facebook.com/canadiandad! Cheers!