My latest column in the July edition of Chicago Parent.
My husband hails from a family of seven children and is the fifth consecutive boy. I often tease him that nary a soul looked up when he arrived home from the hospital, baby boys being old hat and all.
I am not sure if Joe’s strongest stance on child-rearing is based on birth order or an innate sense of fairness, but he consistently argues:
“What we offer to one child, we offer to all.”
It has proven to be a maddening and expensive concept.
After my oldest son’s somewhat traumatic birth, therapists suggested he engage in activities that develop core strength. Ice skating was high on that list.
My husband peered over my shoulder as I registered Danny for Learn-to-Skate.
“You’re not doing ALL the boys?”
The righteous indignation was palpable.
I had no intention of dragging three little kids to an ice rink. At that time, lacing up just one pair of skates was daunting. We eventually compromised and agreed to hold off on little Joey until he could, you know, WALK.
A while later, we discovered my first son enjoyed chess. I located a local group and planned to send the two oldest boys. Joe again rallied around the cause of no man left behind.
“What about Joey?”
“Joey thinks chess pieces are army guys. And that they should fly.”
“Sign him up.”
I begrudgingly agreed.
Over and over, one child would express an interest and Joe would demand the whole motley crew gain exposure. I was ready to mutiny when I noticed something.
Jack, the tag-along kid for skating, developed a passion for ice hockey. Within one year, he went from the rejection of not making a house team to being promoted to a travel team. Fast as lightening, the kid now sleeps with his hockey stick and speaks with religious fervor over the happenings in the NHL.
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.
And Joey, my bundle of energy and limited attention span, flourished under chess tutelage. In learning to consider consequences more than one step out, his grades and focus improved enormously. He also gained confidence in being one of the only second-graders proficient in a complex game.
I could not have predicted that outcome in a million years.
With a new appreciation for exposing children to a plethora of activities and sports, I sometimes get frustrated when parents insist:
“That (sport/activity) just isn’t my child’s thing.”
How can you be so sure?
For the uncoordinated child, sports offer repetitive motions and drills that rival years’ worth of physical therapy. Music lessons can actually improve balance. Martial arts and swimming have been known to help with ADHD.
Many local park districts, schools, and communities provide affordable alternatives to privately run programs.
It was never my intention to be so tired or so poor running these kids here and there. I still try to hide my disappointment when long-term interests fall to the wayside (piano, cello, swimming, soccer). I can only hope that the strong base provided will remain should a passion suddenly reignite.
I do not blame parents who think I am crazy.
Yet a long time ago, before my husband and I had kids, we both agreed to offer our kids just one thing:
The entire world.
But they would still have to take out the garbage first.