Updated: May 3
“Why do parents in america have their kids do so many after school activities?”
My nephew who is here in the states from India asked me this the other day. My oh-so-wise and intelligent response was:
1. Here its not like India where neighborhood kids come out to play with each other after school. So most kids are glued to their electronics, T.V, video games, Netflix etc. To minimize this media exposure parents introduce different activities.
2. Second, some neighborhoods have higher crime and drug related issues where the risks of kids being involved in something like this is high if they don’t have other distractions. Activities introduce them to other possibilitiesThird and lastly, because many colleges now a days look of candidates who are all rounders not just good in studies. They want to know if the child can multi task and handle the pressure and stresses of the real world.
Now that I think about this question, yes all of these answers have some truth in it but the root of the problem is we pack our children’s schedules with activities because we are afraid:
Afraid that they will be left behind so we must give them the opportunity we never had growing upAfraid that if they don’t learn these qualities they will be failures in the ‘real’ worldAfraid that in order to survive in the next century they need to learn it all at a young age.
This fear is somewhat justified too if you hold off on teaching or allowing younger kids to learn these skills at a young age and when are in their teens they have to compete with other child prodigies who began honing on the skill at 6 months of age. What happened to playing sports for fun? why must each child be trained to be the next Ronaldo or Messi? Reality is all of us are blessed with special talents and unique skills.
This is not to say, sit around because you are talented and destined, you will be stricken with fame, money and glamour. Success to me is always a perfect balance of hard work, faith time, place and persistence.
Parenting is not a profession, it is not a matter of perfection or creation. It is a gardening job you plant, you care and then you let it go. In this need-and-want of creating geniuses, we are forgetting to create good human beings. We are teaching our kids that other accomplishments make you happy and successful. That your worth is on how much you achieve.
We know in the deepest of our beings we are whole and complete at all times. Yes, that scholarship or recognition could be a cherry on top. However its not the whole enchilada. What matters is how unaffected one remains from all the drama on the outside. Encourage kids to be just kids, goofy, crazy wild dirty, messy spontenous, loving and caring:
Balancing the crazy stimulating soccer game with a nap or reading.
Introduce things that bring them closer to their uniqueness such as their culture and their family.
Teach by incorporating this in daily routines.
This is not in any means saying that I got this parenting thing figured out. I am learning as I go. My intentions are to mold and guide these kids into wholesome beings who know their roots and value their uniqueness. We watch it all unfold with pure intentions and open hearts!