Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Does he do anything else?"

This is the second most common question I get in regards to Stitch's skating, the most common being, "Does he like it?" (No, I just enjoy being cold and making my kid miserable.)

Where we live, it's the norm for kids to be involved in a list of activities that keeps them busy from dawn to dusk, every day of the week. I have one parent friend who takes pride in that his son has "Thursday nights off, because he just does swimming." No one focuses, no one specializes, everyone does anything from cheer, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, skating, baseball, soccer, hockey, dance, gymnastics, pottery, karate, theatre and there's even an etiquette class so you can pick up what you missed by not having a tabled family meal once a week.

Stitch just skates, and he claims that between school and skating, he is overbooked. As much as I think he'd benefit from a swimming class, he adamantly refuses. Even the Dance, which will become a necessity, he is staunchly opposed to.

This raises brows. "He doesn't do anything else?"

No, and he doesn't want to. Simple as that. Stitch likes time to read his comics, play with his trains and be by himself, and I respect that.

There's a lot of online parental debate about how soon a child should "specialize" in any one activity. The general consensus is that young children (under 8) should not specialize, they should continue doing a smattering of activities until they find one they like. That's all well and good for stuff like T-Ball, generic "Arts" groups and Lego classes. (Okay, it was a camp, but I still found the notion of being taught to use Legos silly.) But for activities that require a high degree of skill, like skating or gymnastics, the smattering can get detrimental. I always hear of skating time eaten up by that etiquette class. ("How come he's so good? Public Skate? She'd love to play with Stitch on public skate, but we have Mandarin Chinese then.")

Did you know I can be bribed with Diet Coke and Cheetos?

These parents who engage their kids in a hundred activities are the same ones who are starting to give me dirty looks at the rink. Just last week I had a mom give me a snarky, "Well, we just don't have that kind of time to be here so much," when I mentioned my weekend schedule of skating. What, did some mysterious stranger sign your kid up for all that crap?

This is one of the great crimes and conundrums of Parenthood. For your child to do well at something, especially a high skill like skating, then they need to specialize. But if they specialize, then you're failing as a parent because you're not providing a "variety" of activities and somehow limiting them. And then there are people who will accuse you of somehow stunting their growth because "kids shouldn't specialize." And of course, the sentiment that underlies all of those objections is that by specializing, you're harboring UnRealistic Visions Of Greatness bordering on Mania. This is the Parental Double Bind in that it's really cool to have a Talented Young Kid, but what kind of Freako pushes their kid like that?

This puts parents like me under a microscope. At every meeting with another parent, I'll get, "So, is he doing another competition soon? What's he learning now?" (Answer, I don't even know anymore. I think it's a ballet jump but I'm not sure. I have to ask.) There are rare exceptions to this rule, (one, in fact) so I don't talk much about Stitch's skating to other parents. This is hard because a lot of them have kids in the skating school.

This is another case of "mind your own business, please." Whatever plays out here is fine. He spends more time reading comics and joke books than he skates, so by following all their logic, I could also make the argument that I think he is the next George Carlin.

My kid is good at skating, your kid is good at whatever your kid does. I take care of my kid, you take care of yours, and if anyone wants to carry this conversation further, I have something for you.

(Addendum: Shortly after I posted this, I got an email from the School District. Apparently Mandarin will really and truly on the menu at a local magnet school next year. I guess I can't joke about it anymore.)


  1. And where exactly do I get the great big bag of "shut up?" Cause I need that.


    A skating mom whose kid joined a show out of high school instead *gasp* of going straight to college.

  2. haha- the captcha was "hamper" I love it when that happens.

  3. Totally agree. I have one kid who just does hockey (though I do force him to do swimming once a week). He skates all the time. He is planning to take figure skating this summer in the hockey off-season (to improve his skating overall). He loves it and it's all he wants to do. I have another kids who does a smattering (including figure skating) because she hasn't yet found one thing that she is really passionate about. So, she keeps trying stuff out. Both are fine with me.

  4. People just need to mind their own beeswax. I think doing a show for awhile (forever?) is awesome.

    Anon, it's cool with me if kids want to do a lot of stuff, but for the few kids who like the one thing, that should be cool as well.

  5. People in this area are very fortunate there are so many interesting activities. My childhood was not so interesting. But it really isn't necessary to dabble in everything.

    Keep pushing the swimming class though; that's different since learning to swim does improve safety. But you can tell him he can stop once he can swim 50 yards on his own without stopping, or something.