Why does this happen at 2AM? Awakened by mysterious forces (a.k.a. my now 8-year-old “sneaking” into our bed), my thoughts were busy enough to keep sleep at bay. I am the kind of human who isn’t human if not allowed to sleep for at least 7 hours a night. Eight hours is my sweet spot and I have been known to go to bed 8PM to accomplish the sweet spot.
My middle of the night thinking isn’t always rational. It’s more like I jump right into the deep end of impending doom. Last night was no different. I was somehow feeling convinced that the plane we are boarding in a few short days would crash.
After successfully pushing that thought away, I started thinking about my kids. Are they happy? Are we raising them right? Shouldn’t they be involved in more? We should really start working on all our activities for summer. What if they don’t get in the classes they want? Or aren’t teams they want or on a team with their friends? Who will they sit with at lunch? Will they still have any friends at all?
And then it hits me. Is this really the “worst-case scenario?” That they won’t be on the same team as their friends or they won’t be all involved in 27 summer activities? Goodness, someone slap me. After 3 cups of coffee and thinking more like myself I can’t even vocalize these irrational thoughts to my husband as I know he will tell me I worry too much. He would be right, of course. More worrisome to me is why I feel like this intense level of involvement matters so much.
What is it that I really want for my kids? Acceptance? A sense of belonging? Connectedness? Maybe that is part of it, but if I asked anyone of my kids, I think they would tell me they have these things.
Here is the difference: they have this sense of belonging not because of their activities, but because of their sense of family. Isn’t that what I should be focused on? And yet, I am sucked into that vortex in which we, as parents, equate our kids’ happiness, identity and sense of belonging with the status of what sports they play, what events they are included in, what clubs they belong to and what parties they are invited to. That’s not me, is it? Oh goodness, somebody slap me again! “Don’t you want to sign up for that?” is a phrase I have uttered more than once. When they respond passively, “Nah,” why do I feel it necessary to press on? Yet, I often do by asking,”Aren’t your friends doing it?”
REALLY, ERIN? “Aren’t your friends doing it?” Now you all have permission to slap me silly.
What message am I sending if they make a choice for themselves and I intervene by inquiring why they aren’t participating in something just because their friends are? I still remember my parents saying, thick with sarcasm, “If your friends decided to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” Crap. Double crap. Triple crap.
Someone please remind me that my kids are not living a miserable, deprived childhood if they don’t sign up for every opportunity that is offered to them as adolescents. Rather, they are making choices independently. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? For them to make choices that work for them? I have a great appreciation for our schools, clubs and organizations in that they offer such great choices for our kids. It’s just that I, like so many others I know, feel the pressure to look at these “choices” as mandatory situational experiences that our kids must take part in for, if they don’t, we suck as parents.
Sure, I want them to belong to a team or two to learn the valuable lessons embedded in such experiences. I know we should encourage them to try new things, step out of their comfort zone, take risks, join a club, assume a leadership role, volunteer and fight for a cause they believe in.
That all matters – just not in one summer.
Maybe instead of slapping each other silly, we could just remind one another that more isn’t better when it comes to all of the experiences our kids need to have a fulfilled childhood.
There. Now, I am off to bed. Good night.