After a sporadic ballet career in Twinkle Toes at two and then a serious ballet school last year at four, my daughter has informed me she wants to quit ballet.
It is breaking my heart.
Realistically, she's four, and she's upset that this year's class is different than last year's class. Her little ballet friends have either dropped out or moved into classes too advanced for her. (She was the littlest ballerina in her class last year.) She didn't like the new kids, was wary of the new teacher, and after spending five days a week at preschool/daycare, didn't particularly want an extracurricular activity in her life. So after two weeks of pushing, we let her drop out.
I called my mom from the car on the way home from ballet school, oddly near tears. I myself took dance for 10 years, from age 3 to about age 13 or so. I quit after I realized my flat feet would keep me from ever successfully going en pointe. My daughter, the little angel, crunched crackers in the backseat as I whispered to my mother.
"Just let her drop, Rita," my mom said. "Don't push her. She's in school all day. She's just tired. Let her be a kid."
I knew she was right. "But Mom," I said. "I remember you making me stay in soccer, and you made me stay long enough to do my stupid record book in 4-H."
"I don't remember that," she said. My mother, the blogless one, tends to forget these things.
"I remember," I said. "I have a bran muffin recipe to prove it."
"Well, dear," she reprimanded. "You were in third or fourth grade by then. She's FOUR."
<chomp, chomp> The sounds from the backseat grew louder.
"Mommy?" my daughter asked. "Can we go home now?"
God, am I a stage mom? What is WRONG with me?
Many of us struggle with whether or not to make our kids stay with their extracurricular activities. As a full-time working mom, my sweet girl is in school from around 8:30 each weekday morning to anywhere between 5-6:30 at night, depending on the day. She gets rest time, but her schedule is far more hectic than my four-year-old schedule ever was. I hear my friends worrying about half-day kindergarten being too much, and I think guiltily my kid is already pulling a 40-hour school week. So no, she probably doesn't need more, what with the music class, Spanish sessions and home-play-learning-to-fold-napkins business she has going on five days a week. The kid can read small words, write anything you tell her to spell and add small numbers. Good grief, I should be happy with that, eh?
I'm not alone. Lots of us struggle with our kids' activities and whether or not to push.
For some, structured activities are good and right and worth pushing. Parent Papers is trying to nurture her nine-year-old son's love of ballet:
I don't know why I care so much about him sticking with ballet. I guess it's because I know that he loves ballet and that he is more serious about it than anything else in his life. He has a passion for dancing that is unlike anything else I've seen for either of my kids.
For others, organized sports or other clubs have too much sitting and control and not enough personal expression and movement. Michelle Schafer writes:
He thought he needed to be in some clubs like some of his friends because he likes moving but what he was not realizing that driving to the activity and sitting or practicing is not the activity he needs for rejuvenation. He has to intensely use his body and mind. Sports did not do it because he had to control himself in to what the coach wanted.
We ultimately decided to let our four-year-old daughter drop out of ballet with little to no argument. As she grows, I'm sure whether or not she sticks with her activities will come up again and again. As she is an only child, I'm particularly aware of our focus on her, wanting it not to be too great. My husband and I both have a lot of outside interests, so it is my hope we won't put too much pressure on her to entertain us with her accomplishments, but I realized driving home that night I wanted her to stay in ballet for me, not for her. And it sort of scared me.
Here's a great Bill of Rights for Athletes I found at Arizona Mama.
Bill of Rights for Young Athletes
1. Right to participate in sports
2. Right to participate at a level suited to their maturity and ability
3. Right to be treated with dignity
4. Right to play as children, not as adults
5. Right to share in decisions regarding their participation
6. Right to have qualified adult leadership
7. Right to participate in safe and healthy environments
8. Right to improve skills and strive for success
9. Right to proper preparation
10. Right to have fun
11. Right to be treated with dignity
See number 5? Yeah, Rita. Let her participate in decisions regarding her participation.
Let the kid take a load off. She's FOUR.
How do you guys deal with this?
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