I have a daughter who is very talented at figure skating. She pretty much taught herself, watching YouTube videos of famous skaters and then practising during our homeschool skate times.
We’ve been trying to put her in lessons, but the clubs near us are always full. I’m going to make the effort next year, though, because she is very committed to it.
When she was younger she had the opportunity to do competitive gymnastics. She’s always been really flexible; she often sits in the splits while she reads.
And we said no anyway. My cousin was in competitive, and she had a great time, but it’s not that she ever got to the Olympics or anything. And so she spent 15 hours a week doing a hobby that made her parents rush her around everywhere. I’m not saying my aunt and uncle were wrong; I don’t think they were. It’s just that for our family I didn’t want that. And maybe I could have handled the lessons during the week, but the kicker for me was the summer. They expected you to be there for 75% of the lesson times anyway, and we like to go camping and get away in the summer. I just couldn’t give that up.
I think children should have the chance to do well at sports, and pursue hobbies and dreams. But too often today these things take on a seriousness which I don’t think they warrant.
I was browsing some blogs lately, and I came across one woman at the United States of Motherhood who was bemoaning her child’s competitive swimming. He had actually made it into the top 38 in the nation, and so he was on his way. But listen to their schedule:
He loves swimming. His friends and social circle are there. It’s his thing. But he used to love to read? He used to get great grades? Where did that boy go?
Was I wrong? Am I wrong to let swimming take over our life?
Swimming seven days a week. Some days we leave for swimming at 3:30 and get home at 9 PM.
Dinner is eaten on the run most nights.
Homework is done in the car, in the stands of the pool, or at the nearby library.
She ended up threatening to take away swimming this summer because of his grades, which is a worry. But I think there’s a bigger worry. Here’s my take, and what I would say to her:
When your son is older, what will ultimately matter is not swimming lessons or swim team, as beneficial as that may be. What will matter is that he has a strong relationship with you which grounded him in his identity, his faith, his integrity, and his character.
Swimming is fun, but it is not the main thing in life. The main thing is your character and what you will become. Swimming can play a role in teaching discipline, but what he really needs is to anchored in his family, and for that you need time to be a family–to eat dinner together, to play together, to walk together.
Seven days a week is just too much, even if he’s Olympic material. The Olympics are not worth sacrificing your family over.
So you need to find balance. The thing that is most correlated with academic, relational, and emotional success in life is eating dinner as a family. If you have no time, that’s a problem.
I look at some of these girls who have won Olympic medals in gymnastics or skating, and I still think it wasn’t worth it. So they’ve got a medal. They’ve wrecked their childhood. And it’s your relationship and stability with your family that you only get during those childhood years that helps them form the morals and values, and acquire the faith, they need later in life.
I know that sports teaches you morals, but it can’t replace a family just hanging out together.
So my advice to you this summer: don’t overschedule it. Now’s the time to quit a lot of outside involvement. Hang out together. Escape together. Talk together. Read together. Be together again without having to nag about homework, or piano practice, or getting to bed early. This is your chance just to have fun and rediscover family. Don’t waste it!