The Race To Have It All

May 22, 2012 13 Comments TAGS: Kids, Motherhood

Has there ever been a more pressure-filled time than now to be a child growing up in North America? I almost think not.

I was at the gym today, and was chit-chatting with another mom I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up in our lives, and she asked me what my boys are doing this summer. I proceeded to tell her that my 5 year old son is going back to his day camp and hockey camp at the end of the summer. And that my older 8 year old son was going to sleepaway camp, up until last month, when we cancelled.

She then said to me, “You did the right thing, Erica. Besides, why are we in such a rush today to push our kids into everything?”

I told her about his adamant request to go to sleepaway camp this summer, at end of 3rd grade.  Despite the fact that my husband and I felt he wasn’t emotionally ready, we didn’t deny his request. We visited the open house this winter, and he loved it. It was also the camp where his mommy and daddy met, and how cool that he’d be going there too! We asked him, “You’re ready, buddy?” He replied, “I love it. I’m so ready.” He begged us, and we happily complied. Our boy was growing up!

And, oh was he proud. When people asked him what he was doing this summer, he beamed. Sleepaway camp!

But in the end, it was all too much. He began to have recurring bad dreams and anxiety about camp. Perhaps we should have forbidden him to go in the first place, knowing he wasn’t ready this year. But that is not our way. We wanted to allow HIM to make his own decision, and spread his own wings. After another bad dream one night, I quietly asked him, “Are you sure you’re ready for sleepaway camp? It’s more than okay if you are not, sweetheart. It’s okay to sit this summer out. We will be proud of you and support your decision, either way.” I gave him a few weeks to think about it and decide.

And just a few weeks ago, he came up to me one day, “Mom, I am not ready for sleepaway camp.”

And just like that, he was a new person.

I breathed a sigh of relief, because I knew in my heart he really wasn’t ready. But the truth is, my husband and I would NOT have picked him up had he been homesick this summer. We wouldn’t. And the proof of that is right here. It’s not about tough love. It’s about the commitment. I was raised, that when you make a commitment, you see it through. And thankfully, my husband and I are a unified front when it comes to quitting.We both feel that when you make that commitment, you keep your word. It is character building and important. I knew in my heart that this summer would have been a total bust had he gone. But I didn’t put my foot down, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I let him lead the way. And in the end, I believe allowing him to make his own final decision was the best thing for him.

So, we’re sitting this summer out, and next year, he will be a full year older, more mature, and better prepared. We’ll reassess.

On a side note, read these. These were MY sleepaway camp letter when I was his age. Let’s pray to God he doesn’t follow in his mom’s footsteps.

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I SCREEM.

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If I send MANY WISHES, maybe THAT will work! Maybe they’ll come pick me up.

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I cried 29 times, but PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO SEND GIFTS!

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THEY AREN’T BRINGING ME HOME. I CAN SEE IT NOW. SO, LET’S SEND THE THREAT MAIL. NO “LOVE, ERICA” ANYMORE.

Then I ran away. No joke.

Ok, I know you’re dying from laughter now. Just imagine my mother. I was a frikkin’ nightmare.

But in all seriousness, what is with our society and the race to give our children everything, too quickly? My son is pretty much one of his only friends not going to sleepaway camp this summer. At 8 years old, he is just not ready to leave us for the summer. Why is this a bad thing?

And I’ll take it one step further. Why do we give our kids electronics at such a young age, often before they’re developmentally ready? I’m guilty. Why did I give in to basketball, swimming, hockey, and baseball, all for this spring season? Again, guilty. Why is sleepaway camp at 8 a must (as it is for many kids in my community)? Why do parents I know give their children extra summer reading to stay ahead of the game, instead of the summer off to relax and enjoy being a kid? Why are my son’s peers doing extra off-ice hockey training? Why are parents redshirting their kids at record numbers, for that competitive advantage? Why are anxiety and depression at record highs in children and teens due to the extreme pressures they feel trying to keep up with the curriculum, and social pressures? Why are kids smoking, doing drugs and having sex at younger ages than ever?

What is with the race to have everything and DO everything so soon? I ask you? I just feel like it’s a race to expose our kids, and push our kids to be smart, athletic and all-around great, at a very young age.

So today, I ask you, what do you make of this race to have it all? Am I completely off base? Have you been guilty of pushing your kids into something too soon? Is it all too much pressure? Should I have forced my son to go this summer? I’m often on the fence between ‘When is it pushing too hard, and when should you push in order to not raise a quitter? I would really love your take on all of this- are we pushing our kids too hard, too soon?

xoxEDxox

    13 Comments

    1. Joyce HalladayNo Gravatar says:

      I got off the rat race wheel several years ago, it came down to my life for a job! My fourteen year old daughter does not lament the “things” she does not have. Although at times I have felt lacking as a parent, it balances out by the fact that at this moment my daughter contentedly sits here, simply being! The angst has been more mine than hers. Everything has been at her own pace, she wasn’t ready for overnight camps, she tells me what she wants to do and be;and I encourage her with these words,”I don’t care what you do, as long as you are happy about what you are doing, because no amount of money can make you happy!” Frankly, I believe that more parents need to worry less about their children and start living their own lives, rather than vicariously through their children! Time for a bucket list!

    2. Loved the blog post! Those letters are priceless and I do feel feel you did the right thing with your son.

    3. My wife and I already discussed how we are going to approach our daughter when she gets old enough to make decisions on her own. We are not going to push her into anything, but we are going to have her try things before she says no. I want her to be involved in sports, but if she does not want to then I will be fine with it, but I want her to be happy. I am not going to be the parent who pushes their kid into things and then they end up resenting me later in life. Parents push kids into things they are interested in and their child may not be as passionate about and then the problems begin.

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    5. SaiNo Gravatar says:

      I personally enjoy kids enjoying their freedom.Never pressure them..let them enjoy the sweetest freedom they will ever have.a lot of pressures are awaiting them ahead ..this is my philosophy.Its not essential that we need to push kids to this field or that field.every kid will have his own talent and it will definitely come out through schooling anyway..

    6. Too many parents are pushing their kids to be, not just involved in everything, but to be the BEST at everything: Travel teams, voice/instrument lessons/School councils, etc…

      We, too, let our children decide their own pace, explaining the pros & cons of something they want to do, and then we expect them to finish what they started. Kudos to you!

      And, HORRORS!, we limit what they are allowed to do. For instance, only one sport per season, and one other extra curricular activity. School first, family obligations second (Chores: DOUBLE HORRORS!), then sports. We also do period community service, sometimes as a family, sometimes individually, but they have to be able to plan and manage their time themselves…

      Of course, we have handled this at age appropriate levels as they’ve grown… Now 20, 17, 15… College kid going to school 24 hrs away, paying his own bills, & cooking for himself! http://thefivefacets.blogspot.com/2010/08/family-momentum-ii.html

      That’s the result of the types of decisions you and hubby are making. 🙂 Kudos!

    7. LindaNo Gravatar says:

      Great post. Too much pressure way too soon but those letters are PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!! Your poor parents!

    8. AmandaNo Gravatar says:

      I am torn by all these pressures as well. Love how you captured it with all the visuals!

    9. omairaNo Gravatar says:

      you poor thing! those letters are priceless 🙂 i couldnt agree with you more, i am actually criticized sometimes because i dont let my girls watch teen shows (they are only 7 and 3, give me a break) they dont have any type of hand-held electronics. i often feel alone in trying to preserve my daughters childhood and innocence. i truly belive we are pushing our kids way to hard to do it all. my daughters do each one activity per season and dance class during school year it is more than enough and all i can handle. lets give our kids the tools they need to be happy adults while letting them enjoy childhood.

    10. Marilyn RobinsonNo Gravatar says:

      Loved the blog post! Those letters are priceless and I do feel feel you did the right thing with your son. Your inner voice spoke and you listened!

    11. Patty R. SmithNo Gravatar says:

      I think this concept is especially true with daughters who are growing up way too quickly. By the way those letter are priceless.

    12. TaliNo Gravatar says:

      You made a great decision. We shouldn’t push our kids to do anything before their ready.

    13. SamanthaNo Gravatar says:

      I would like to first say that these letters are hysterical! Your poor mom. She must have been traumatized. I do agree that parents today seem to be in a rush to expose their kids early but I don’t think it’s necessarily with bad intention. There is a lot of pressure though on our kids today.

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