Teach Your Children Well
Up here in the North East, Dunkin' Donuts has a commercial featuring a mother driving her five children around. Each shot is on a child, strapped into a seat, dressed according to his or her destination "Swimming! Soccer! Ballet! Oboe! And last, but not least ... KARATEEEEEEEEE!" They all shout. I like that the ad agency made something so pedestrian a little bit funny. I also like that it appears that they cast a real-life mother and her real-life children, since their facial similarities are obvious. But, truthfully, I don't like what the ad represents.
Dunkin' Donuts wants me to avoid the hunger that might come upon me as I drive my brood of five around to their various activities. They assume that all Good Moms do this, so they want to help them out. I consider myself a Good Mom, but I have decided, at least for now, that I am not going to drive anybody around.
I'm calling myself the Anti-Soccer Mom, although it's not a stance against just soccer; it's also a stance against any activity that substitutes car life for home life, minimizes time spent together as a cohesive family unit, and focuses only on accomplishment of one individual member.
Of course, my oldest child is only eight. I'm willing to admit that my family's desires and needs may change as we grow up. But for now, we don't do practices, classes, play dates, games, or tournaments.
Yes, I know it's radical. I know it's counter-cultural. I know that I'm risking "damaging" my kids for life, but I've got my reasons, and I'm betting their tender childhoods that, in the long run, I'll be glad I stayed home.
Now I want to list my reasons. They aren't in any particular order.
1. Home Life is Sacred. Our house is more than a place where we hang our clothes and sleep at night. Our home is a place where we nurture our souls. Because we take the time to make it comfortable and orderly, we can find our true selves here. Time in our car, or on any field, will never reach the quality of life that we have in our four walls.
2. and 3. When We're Home, We Eat Healthy Meals Together. Show me an article on family nutrition, and I'll show you a paragraph that mentions how rarely families eat together due to all their extra-curricular activities. Because we stay at home, we eat every meal, together, around our dining room table. We do it because we're really into being together. We also practice good manners so we can handle the rare public meal. We also contribute to the preparing and clean-up. Additionally, we consistently eat fresh, unprocessed, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegtetables, and a little bit of meat and dairy (so Dunkin' Donuts has wasted their advertising dollars on me!). We have a family member with serious food allergies, so by staying at home and controlling every aspect of meal preparation, we can guarantee there will be no trips to the emergency room. We view meal time as sacremental and a vital part of our family culture and critical to our health. Why would I want to subject my family to sub-standard nutrition in a sub-standard environment that would "eat" away (sorry!) from what it means to be a family?
4. Little Ones Need To Be At Home. I don't care how many Gymboree classes are offered in my neighborhood, I'm not convinced that infant and toddler outings are all that important. I am far more sure of the necessity of a schedule, particularly naps, for the under 3, possibly under 4, set. If I have my older kids commited to even one sport each, that means that I drag around my little ones at least twice for every practice and game. I once read an article where a mother commented that her baby felt more at home in her car seat than in her own bed. I love my babies too much for that. They will get their naps and regular meal times, and everyone in the family will work to meet that goal. Furthermore, I haven't the foggiest idea what mothers do with a cranky two-year-old while they're waiting for big sister to finish soccer practice. I know my two-year-old well enough to know that I don't want to find out. I'd rather assure him that all his needs will be met in a dependable manner. (Truthfully, I'd like to have a little more adult interaction during the day, but I have to put my children's needs before mine!)
5. Big Bucks, Little Bang. Once or twice over the course of the last eight years, I've had an inclination to sign up my kids for something. I've balked every time over the money issue. We haven't been in a financial position to fork over the dough for uniforms, lessons, shoes, etc.--and I couldn't be happier. I wish I knew more about the actual costs of under-eight soccer to accurately make my point, but the truth is, I'd rather spend my money on art supplies, quality children's literature, music CDs, audiobooks, admissions to museums, and library fines. These alternative choices are shared by the whole family, allow for creativity (and plenty of inside jokes), and can be used for years.
6. I Don't Want To Sign My Life Away. Saturdays are also valuable to us; we have our special things that we do. If I sign my child up for a sport, I lose too much of what my weekend means to me, between shuffling them around and actual game time. I've heard of vacations that had to be cancelled because of sports demands. The uniform may belong to only one child, but the team owns the whole family. No, thank you.
7. Organized Activities Take Away From Spontaneous Play. If we are a slave to our schedule, then we steal play time from our children. My daughters, ages 7 and 8, are inseparable and spend their play time creating plays, making ornate artwork, digging holes in the back yard, and creating memories together. (The boys, ages 4 and 2, will eventually get there.) I personally think it's a crime against childhood to say, "Stop playing! We have to go right now to baseball practice!" Also, my kids have the time to play soccer together, whenever they want, with their Daddy, as opposed to playing with a bunch of strangers and someone else's dad. Additionally, we are free to spend time with our neighbors, children of other ages, swim in Grammy's pool, or meet a group at the playground. We never have to stop playing because we'll be late for another commitment. Obviously, we're not advocating being anti-social or inhospitable--only seeking balance as we choose activities.
8. Accomplishment is a Poor Substitute for Character. What did the Founding Fathers do with their spare time? It wasn't Jazz or T-ball. They worked hard physically and read a lot of good books (mostly the Bible). Like all men of virtue in history, when destiny required of them the character they had been developing, they showed true greatness. I spend a lot of my home time talking to my children about Wisdom, Courage, Compassion, Diligence, and Modesty. I expect them to be great someday, and I hope their trophies won't be the kind that collect dust on a shelf.
9. Competition Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be. As soon as I put my child on a team, she will start comparing herself to her peers, and she will certainly fall short. Her coach will compare her to others, and her acceptance and success will come only if she is good enough at this thing or the other. I'm of the opinion that this can be delayed until she is much older. Now we have our little games and competitions at home, but, win or lose, she's always my star.
10. Talent is Nice, But It's Not Everything. Maybe one of my daughters is athletically gifted (I really don't know for sure, but she sure can throw a basketball!) This gift is from God and will be developed by Him and for Him on His time table. I'm not going to be afraid that she'll miss out on something great because she didn't play under 8 sports. Her identity is so much bigger than her talents. I want her to realize that truth, put her skills in their proper perspective, and pursue worthy goals with her time and energy.
11. We're Not Into Resume' Padding. College admission is not dependent on how many dance classes you took, how many tournament games you won, or whether or not you played first chair, particularly not during your childhood, for goodness' sake!
I'm sure there are more reasons, but this thought summarizes them: I am very skeptical, especially during the first critical years of life, of any temporary activity that replaces the eternal.
Now, excuse me while I jump in the mini-van for a run to Dunkin' Donuts.
Kathy Grubb is a 38- year-old, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of three daughters and two sons, ages 8, 7, 4, 2, and six months. She lives in New England and occasionally blogs at mrsgrubbsurbanhomestead.
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