Our daughters start school next week and this led to a discussion of extracurricular activities the other day. My middle daughter, who is six, plans to play soccer again because she really enjoyed it last year. She is 40 pounds of muscle and is a bundle of energy. Sports is definitely her thing.
Then I asked my oldest, who is eight, if she wanted to sign up for any sports and she said, "No, because sports isn't my thing."
How would you have responded?
Many parents want well-rounded kids and push them to be involved in a variety of activities, even when their children lack any interest and/or ability in those areas.
For example, a lot of folks believe that it is "good" for kids to learn a musical instrument. So they force their child to practice, despite the fact that he/she dislikes music.
When children are gifted academically, we worry that they are missing out on more active pursuits and encourage them to get more involved in athletics, even when they plead with us for a note excusing them from having to participate in gym class.
On the other hand, when our children are competitive and successful in sports, we complain about their academic performance and encourage them to focus more on their studies, even when it is clear that they were born to move, to run, to jump and to play and that being stuck at their desk all day is like a prison sentence.
So what should we do when one of our children says that an activity "isn't their thing?"
I won't presume to tell you what to do with your children, but I can tell you what I did. I told my daughter that we respected her decision and wouldn't push her to do sports. Instead, we would continue to help her identify what her "thing" is and give her opportunities to spend more time and energy in those areas. For example, she enjoys art and music. Her favorite part of the summer was a week at pottery camp.
She doesn't enjoy sports because she doesn't like activities that are loud and involve a lot of people. She prefers activities that are quiet and that she can do alone or with a few other people.
She's independent and not much of a team player. She articulated this one day when she asked to be home schooled. When I asked her why, she said "because then I wouldn't have to deal with all those other kids wasting my time."
But we're not pushing her to be a team player or an athlete. We're too busy helping her to become more of who she is, instead of trying to make her something that she's not. Making her more balanced just "isn't our thing."