A one woman war against after-school activities
There is an industry so insidious, so clever, so cunningly insecurity-inducing that as a mother you have to fight with all you’ve got to save yourself from its choking grip.
It is expensive—but somehow you’re hypnotised into thinking you should wear the pain. It eats your time, and the golden free time of your kids.
It keeps you on the hook and feeling nervous, that if you don’t buy into it you may fail your precious children and maybe hold them back for life.
And it’s pervasive—everyone else seems to be into it and not complaining about the extra energy, cash and feigned parental interest it requires…So if you feel it’s over-rated, like the Emperor’s new clothes, well, the problem must be you.
It is After School Activities, and as of now I am declaring a one-woman war.
I don’t care if it’s unfashionable to diss the idea that if little Titus doesn’t do his archery, or classical piano, chess club, hip-hop, gospel or golf, he may be missing out on the enrichment opportunity of his little life.
I don’t mind if I’m seen as shirking my responsibility to promote the idea that offering a “broad range of experiences”—in climate-controlled comfort, with crash-mats and a uniform—is not only a parental duty, but doing macaroon cooking of a Wednesday, quilting Thursdays and Budocan Mondays and Fridays is little Ruby’s right.
As the common online catch-cry goes, I call bulls—t on the whole idea that our hovering, panicking, over-extended, over-spending and over-tired generation of parents must run themselves ragged to ensure junior isn’t “missing out”.
I just fail to see the long or short-term benefits of all the rushing, the buying, the trying, the dropping-and-starting-something-new. Extra Curricular Inc, I am flat out daring you to demonstrate that really, this is worth it for me or the kids.
And just how did we get sucked into this Dante’s inferno of endless, sometimes overlapping extras, that keep us running hard and broke?
If I’m sounding a bit cross here, it’s because I am. As the new school year cranks up, and slowly all the millions of kids’ extras resume, I’m struggling to believe I haven’t, for the last 14 years, been the tiniest bit sucked in.
Strike that, unilaterally sucked in by the fear of my kids missing something good—and idea fostered by marketing in the parenting magazines and word of mouth from other well-meaning but, come end of term wrung-out, parents.
In my time as a (borderline obsessive) parent I have signed various of the kids up to the following activities:
* Baby gym (won’t mention the name of the chain, but it pumps out a formularised hour of movement and happy-clappy singing, I reckon I did four years of this, often two classes in a row for babies of different ages, in my suburb at the time you were in the minority if you didn’t).
* Mother-baby swimming lessons (three kids, a year each).
* Toddler music (mother-baby music fun, actually enjoyed that, did it for three years).
* Creative dance (for pre-schoolers and their mothers, sold as a must, must, must-do by some other mothers, but though we were tigers in the jungle, explorers in the desert and fish in the sea, thankfully my boy didn’t get that into it and we didn’t last too long).
* Tiny tennis and then proper, extremely costly tennis lessons (did years of both, the rackets are in the shed).
* Karate—raved about by locals. Lovely “senseis’’ (teachers), but kids didn’t really take to it. Cut-and-costly uniforms, ditto, in the shed.
* School chess club. Short-lived—but on the upside not BYO rainforest timber board.
* Ballet—All the local girls were into it, so she gave it a spin. Five hundred dollars worth of special leotards, ballet and tap shoes later, the teacher was an ogre and we lasted two terms.
* Fun gym for primary girls. Excellent exercise and confidence-building value, she loved this exercise in girl power but sadly they moved suburbs.
* Hip-hop, two tries at that. She liked it and was keen to sign but, but ended up preferring gym. No uniform, so, winning.
* Suzuki piano with one and guitar with one. You have to take notes at the lessons, you get told off if you don’t constantly play the Suzuki CD. Tried so hard to give them a musical head start we even did the arduous holiday programs. One child knows one tune on piano, the other prefers Acca Dacca now on guitar. Piano—you have to buy a real one—is on the market.
* Basketball, all three tied it—two for a couple of years, one for a year or so. None of them had the killer instinct—a relief, to be honest, the noise and smell at the local indoor courts are quite something.
* Milo cricket and AusKick (my husband went to those).
When other mothers raved about a range of unmissable extras in our area I caught myself at various times seriously considering acting, art and animation. I know: sucker.
Thankfully, I came to my senses. Local sports clubs have been fantastic and we’re still heavily involved (cricket, soccer, Little Aths).
But seriously, if one of my children does wake up with the desire to be the next Lleyton, Andre Rieu or Jamie Oliver. . .sorry, they’re going to have to drive themselves.
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