My moms didn’t let me sign up for gymnastics or cheer leading, though the later had more to do with feminist theology than logistics, and the former had to do with my lack of coordination. I didn’t get to play soccer or T-ball because they were selfish people who didn’t want me to be happy.
Of course, they both worked full-time jobs, and I was already signed up for ballet, piano, swimming, horseback riding, and had an on-again-off-again relationship with scouting. I honestly don’t know how they did it. Of course, it helped that I walked, rode my bike, and/or took the bus to most of these activities, but I knew that if they really loved me, they would drive me.
Driving children was proof of love for mothers, but as my father learned the year I lived with him, not for fathers.
Dad: Of course I love you! I drive you everywhere!
14 YO Me: You have to drive me places! That’s your job!
Fathers are expected to leave their medical practice in the middle of the day and take their teenaged daughters to the orthodontist, therapist, etc. but get no credit for it whatsoever.
This is one of those occasions when my parents get to sit back and laugh and laugh. I’m not good at saying no to my kids. I work from home, so my time is flexible. I only have them five days out of the week, so I feel like I have to pack seven days’ worth of activities in to the time I have. We race from one thing to the next in the same way almost every other mother I know is doing—my generation has somehow decided that over-scheduling is a virtue.
But this week, I saw that my amped up schedule was not what my kid needed. All my eldest wanted was an hour or two to hang out on the couch and play Pokémon. What he got was one activity after another—all things he enjoyed, mind you—with homework and chores squeezed in-between. He melted at the edges. I was doing him no favors by always saying yes. Now, if we had skipped homework and chores, he would have been just fine, but I have this nagging thought that I have to somehow produce a functioning member of society by the end of his adolescence, and that’s not going to happen by ignoring responsibility.
We all know that playing Pokémon has no educational value, but there is value, I think, in just hanging out. If there is no value to it, I can at least attest to the joy it brings. Lying about on a Saturday has been a life-long avocation of mine. I’m just a better human being when I get down time.
My kids are introverts like I am, and they need a break to recharge between activities, even though they love playing sports and joining teams and all that. We are social introverts, or active introverts, or something. We like to do things, we just don’t like to talk to a lot of people while we do them (one or two is preferred) and we need to go hide for a bit afterwards. As a mother, it’s my job to be an energy gatekeeper, and lately I’ve been failing.
I need to say no to “just one more thing” on a Saturday, even though the kids beg me to let them sign up for just one more thing, because I know that they function better when they get a balance of school, chores, homework, extra-curriculars and couch time. I know I am a better mother when I get to laze about on an occasional Saturday. I need to stop feeling like the evil witch of the north east when I say no, and realize it is an act of love for the entire family.
We will see, however, if I remember this next week. I'm still me, after all.
Copyright © 2017 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com