Friday, February 22, 2008

Extra-Curricular

I had a real Horatio Alger moment this week, watching from the gallery while Erika took her tennis lesson (she usually takes with Hilary, but my hypochondriac was diagnosed with strep on Monday, and was home sleeping). I couldn't hear anything, but I could see Erika bouncing around, a huge smile on her face as she learned the six-year-old version of the "overhead smash." When it was over, she ran up the stairs and breathlessly asked, "Did you see me?" She was so proud of herself.

And I was so happy - to be able to give her tennis lessons, and drama classes, and so many things we didn't have when we were kids. Our parents divorced when I was seven and Keri was five, and our dad was sick most of the rest of his life, so it was just our mother, raising us on a secretary's salary. We did recreational basketball and softball through the township, but we certainly didn't have the options our kids have. I've explained this to Erika many times, trying to impart some perspective, and she asks the oddest questions: "Could you afford to get your car washed when you were a kid?" she asked the other day as we drove down to the bus stop in my toxic minivan, as if an early lack of exposure to car washes might explain the crud covering every surface.

Still, I worry about the choices I've made for the kids, and the ones I'll have to make later. There are so many opportunities, so many activities to choose from. And there's this feeling that kids' brains are so open and impressionable at this age, that the decisions you make now will have lasting consequences. If I sign her up for lacrosse, will she be popular? Would skiing or diving make her a less fearful person than I am?

And then there's the other question: how much is too much? Right now, Erika takes tennis and drama, plus she has Hebrew school three hours every Sunday (three hours!), and an art class on Saturdays I signed her up for because one of her best friends from school was going. Erika enjoys everything, but not only am I plagued by every parenting article I ever read claiming kids today are completely overscheduled by their demanding parents, but I just can't imagine how I will be able to maintain this pace for the other kids. Instead of a nanny, I'm going to need a fleet of chauffeur-driven vehicles.

So at this point, we're encouraging the kids to take the same activities: drama, for confidence in public speaking, and tennis - well, because Andy and I love it and we want the kids to love it. I think we've even sold Keri and Matty on the advantages of consolidation: Declan is going to take his first drama class this session, with Hilary. It may not be a long-term solution, as the kids grow up and discover ice skating and gymnastics and fencing and all the other fascinating alternatives out there, but it works for now. And in a household of 8 kids, I think "works for now" is about as good as it's ever going to get.

1 comment:

Alycia said...

I took an ice skating lesson today with Daniel; if I'm going to overschedule him, why not me too?

Just found your blog by a link from babble. I hope you'll come visit us soon; I saw that Jonah was in Baltimore now.