Monday, February 20, 2012

On Parental Priorities: The Event Planner

If you were to ask parents what their number one priority in life is, all would answer "my children." Who would admit to anything else? If you were to ask those same parents what hopes they have for their children, they would include health, success (whatever that means), and happiness, among other things. Parents can sometimes have peculiar ways of attempting to secure those hopes for their children.

Is it just me or is there peer-pressure among parents to have every child involved in year-round sports, travel leagues in addition to local teams, spend countless hours per week learning karate, dance or another activity every week? I suspect this is because the parents are concerned about their children becoming couch potatoes. Are the kids or families any better because of it? Some kids who are bounced from one activity to another on a daily basis seem to enjoy life and have fun doing what they do. Other kids offer a vacant stare when I casually ask them if they are enjoying their 20+ hours per week in extracurricular pursuits. I almost asked a parent whose sole focus seemed to be on their disrespectful son's sporting prowess if they realized he was more likely to be hit by lightning than be a professional athlete. Thankfully, I held my tongue.

Couch Potato

Now I will offer a quasi-fictional scenario based upon several encounters with other parents and their children. 

"Mary, did you have fun at your piano lesson and jazz dance class this morning?"

"Yeah, they were okay."

"Maybe you can play piano for us later and show us what you've learned. It's been a long time since I've played the piano. You can probably teach me a thing or two!"

"I'm sorry, Mrs. H. After lunch Mom is picking me up because I have an indoor soccer tournament from three o'clock until nine."

"Oh, well maybe you can come over tomorrow and hang out with Suzie after church. She's been wanting to show you the bracelet kit she got for Christmas."

"I'll have to ask my mom. I don't know if I'll have time because I have a riding lesson sometime in the afternoon, I think. Maybe we can have a sleepover next weekend because it's a long weekend and Suzie can spend the night on Sunday! Is that okay?"

"I'll talk to your mom about it when she gets here. Sounds good to me!"

After lunch, Mary's mom arrives to pick her up and thanks me. Then she asks, "What is Johnny going to do now that baseball is over?"

"Well, he's pretty busy with school activities and is in Boy Scouts. He'll be busy enough until Basketball season comes along." I consider my sudden impulse to run out and sign Johnny up for several activities in order to fill in perceived blank spots in our planner. Then I reconsider.

With a puzzled look, she offers a polite smile and presses Mary to gather her things so that they won't be late to the soccer tournament. On their way out door, Mary asks if she and Suzie can have a sleep over next Sunday. Her mom said, "We'll see. I have to get your brother to indoor lacrosse sign-ups on the way home from karate and have no idea how long that is going to take." With a wave and a "Thanks again!" they're out of the driveway and off to their next event.

I was a kid in the 1970's and of course our parents considered us to be their number one priority just as parents do today.  There was also something more, something beyond the fact that just a generation or two ago "kids could be kids." What is missing today? Is it because most households have both parents working outside of the home? Do you think it may be because God is non-existent in most households today? Are parents trying to compensate their children out of guilt? Is it a competition to out-do other parents? Do they honestly think that Johnny and Suzie will be better because they had a childhood with no idle moments?

My next entry will continue to look at parental priorities and in particular, secular influences on them.

*Part Two is HERE and Part Three is HERE.

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