Kids' Activities + Being at Home
(Don't mistake her look for fear. This is the look of pure victory at having successfully inserted herself into what was supposed to be a riding lesson for one.)
I have historically kept my kids close to the nest. This has meant just a handful of playdates over the past 5 years—which haven't seemed necessary when your kids are close in age and each other's built-in playmates—and only a couple brief and regrettable forays into the world of extracurriculars.
My reasons? Equal parts due to nap schedules, wanting to keep the bar low during the little years, germ avoidance, and because I'm wired to be happy and content to mostly keep to ourselves and a small circle of family and friends. We have been in baby mode for over five years now, and it has served us well to keep things simple and at home.
A mom told me recently that her kids "have more of a life than I do" and was lamenting how busy their schedule was, but it became clear that she had inflicted that on herself! Her kids are very young, and she had signed them up for all sorts of activities.
I believe being at home most of the time is best for little ones. In my unscientific experience, the benefits have included the following:
it gives them a strong foundation and sense of security, family, and self on which to build
it's logistically much simpler, especially with babies in the house, and allows for a less frazzled mom
it gives them time and space to develop their own interests.
There are a million articles on why allowing kids to be bored is so important, and how creativity is a byproduct of it. I bet nothing creative ever came from a busy person.
I've had my moments of doubt and guilt, of course, when friends are shuttling their kids from activity to activity. But when I find Eloise doing things like this:
those feelings go away.
However, Eloise (age 5 1/2) is approaching middle childhood (which I understand to start at age 6) and her needs are going to start changing. Our philosophy has always been that as soon as our kids are old enough to ask to do an activity, they can do it (within reason), and just in the past few weeks Eloise has asked me to sign her up for two different extracurriculars (horseback riding and tennis) (to which I told her she could pick one activity, since our town t-ball starts soon too) as well as have a playdate with one of her school friends.
As our kids grow, I think it's just as important for us as parents and families to grow. For us right now, this means allowing our schedule to evolve and begin to include more activities, more time out of the house, and more socializing. It's my job to grow to meet my family's needs so that my kids can grow, too.
Riding lessons started last week and we hosted a playdate, with more to come. It's a new world!
Do you keep your kids busy? Or do you mostly stay at home?
I think wherever we are, it's important to have the clarity to assess where our family is, make the best decisions we can at each stage without comparing ourselves to others, accommodate reasonable requests in a way that works for the family, and adapt along with our kids.