Monday, March 7, 2011

Softball vs. Sandboxes: In Pursuit of the Average Kid

Character building.
I tore into a new two-week package of Prilosec a few days ago. The ulcer's been steadily churning for a while now, but it wasn't until just recently the bubbling crater required medicinal attention. And, during these times of self-perceived weakness, I tend to look back and reflect upon the goings and comings of my current state and question why I've allowed said factors to consume me... or at least consume my gastro function.

I am very much a controloholic. And when I lose my grip, I feel I've failed. And, often, my children are to blame. Well, indirectly. More clearly stated, I worry, at a nuclear level, about the decisions I make for my kids, and how those decisions are going to affect who they are going to become.

For instance, now in kindergarten, my older daughter brings home flyers and papers and pamphlets and handouts, thrice-daily it seems, touting cheerleading camps, dance workshops, gymnastics tryouts, MathAThons, scouting, soccer, softball, basketball (I find this one particularly amusing to target to the under-3-feet-6-inch demographic), rocket science expo, intro to neurology, "Your Ticket to The Nobel Prize Nomination" seminars, and on and on.

And, I worry. As I toss them habitually into the brown paper recycling bag, I worry that perhaps I'm holding her back. Maybe she really NEEDS these things. After all, SOMEONE obviously deems them not only worthy, but essential, to her and her peers' development. As much I want to say I have every ability to control the variables and experiences in her young life with unwavering confidence, there is a creepy crawly thought that persistently slithers its way to the frontal lobe, and I begin to believe that my skepticism of the over-involved lifestyle will ultimately result in a dark and dismal future for her. What if, by not signing up for every extracurricular within the tri-county area -- successfully triple-booking every weekday and thereby refashioning our weekends into 48 hours of kid-ferrying, crazed-soccer-mom-cutting-off-traffic-in-a-minivan, ulcer-palpitating insanity -- she is missing her every opportunity at greatness? Fame? Success? Nay, dare I say, stardom??


But, then I read something today... a bit of mental Mylanta. And, much like my own, it's just another voice out there in the cyber clutter, but I drank it down: "It’s not the achievement that’s important, but what is learned through successes and failures that creates character."

And so, with that clear validation from such a credible source, I'll continue to cling closely to the hope that I'm not causing long-range damage (to her, anyway... my stomach is clearly irrecoverable). Perhaps successes and failures can indeed be unearthed in simpler, less-stress-inducing outlets when the scholar is a five-year old. And, maybe this lifestyle of swapping ballet recitals for afternoons in the sandbox and trading weeks of selling cookies door-to-door for early Saturday morning fishing ventures will yield an average, ordinary kid who, God-willing, will grow up with a strong understanding of what she likes and doesn't like, of what she believes to be true and false, and of what she herself deems worthy of her pursuits. Either that or she'll be most excellent at sand structures and fish chowders.


Here is your chance to participate in constructive criticism of my work.

(Read: Your ticket to openly bash the previous stream of consciousness you just wasted time reading.)