My Blasphemous Parenting Views

My mom taught me the parenting phrase “Roots and Wings.” We start out with these little people and it’s all about roots; unconditional love, acceptance, and strong values. Even during those younger years there are elements of wings; think first steps and biking down hills. Some parents have a harder time with roots; some have a harder time with wings. I keep thinking I’m going to be very good at wings. Go! Fly! Be off on your way my beloved birds. But one of the “wingiest” women I know just told me she’s having a very hard time living far away from the majority of her children. So go figure. Time will tell.

Anyhow, one of our roots-and-wings parenting conundrums was whether to have our kids in extracurricular activities and organized sports. When my eldest son started the first grade, we came to the conclusion that we could not have our kids scheduled after school. The goal of this is by no means to judge or put down people who do; it is simply to share what has evolved for my family. I have divided the pros into two categories because I am preparing myself for the “wings” stage of parenting.

Pros for the Parents

  1. Financial and prioritizing: Let’s face it: Jewish life in 2016 is expensive. Jewish Day School, Jewish day camp and overnight camp, and Kosher food are pricey. These are my priorities. These are my big rocks that must be placed in the jar first. Ya know what I mean? The rock, pebble, sand and water in the jar metaphor.
  2. Time: Driving kids around all evening is a big hassle.
  3. Family dinners: Not having the kids programmed in the evening allows us to sit down together almost nightly as a family, which studies show is super important on many levels. We serve dinner early, as in super early immediately after school, so even if we are going out later we have spent time together and shared about each of our days.
  4. Kids sports do not dictate our lives: Contrary to popular belief, adults have a life outside of their kids’ lives. I don’t want to miss out on interesting learning or social opportunities going on in the community to watch kids play sports.

Now if you are thinking, “What a selfish, self-centered woman this lady is!” think again. The kids have probably gained much more than we have.

 Pros for the Kids

  1. Organizational skills: My kids really enjoy sports so they have mastered the art of unorganized sports or Do It yourself sports. This winter they played hockey outdoors almost every evening. They called classmates. They found rides. They made teams. I was then given the choice to drive that night or to not drive depending on my schedule. If they couldn’t find drivers that day, guess what? Everyone survived. Leading us to #2
  2. Resourceful: They are learning to be creative and entertain themselves. Full disclosure: I consider playing PS4 a legit option. Bad mom? Real mom? Whatever. No judgement; I said I wasn’t judging.
  3. Less self-centered: I think being one of four makes you a little less self-centered. So that’s a good start. This also reminds the kids that our job is to keep them safe, feed them, clothe them, help them be the best they can be with their unique gifts and challenges. The world does not orbit around them. I hope they will model this to their offspring who I may or may not babysit. Yet another thing that time will have to tell.
  4. Inclusivity: When they need more people to make a team, I hear them calling people who they were complaining about just minutes before. Their love of the sport makes them overlook the difficulty they had with them in school that day. I catch snippets of them speaking nicely to these kids and inviting them to come play. They go out of their comfort zones. They call kids in other grades. Aren’t these some of the exact skills we hope kids will get out of organized sports?
The author's daughter is a non-competitive dancer and gymnast. But she walks herself to practices.

The author’s daughter is a non-competitive dancer and gymnast. But she walks herself to practices.

Full disclosure: A couple of summers ago, little known to me, my husband signed my son up for little league. My son had begged and pleaded. My husband did all the driving and I was cool with that as long as I didn’t have to go watch. About a month in, the Jewish guilt set in and I found myself at a Little League game. There were some very enthused parents. I turned to my husband and said, “Are they for real?” My son’s team won the championship that season and, thank G-d, it was a very positive experience. After winning he had no desire to play the next year. My daughter takes non-competitive gymnastics and dance. There is not even a rehearsal, it is near my house, and she walks back and forth. I do not find this taxing to our family.

I pray each day that these roots will transform my brood into adults with wings who love and fear G-d, who love their fellow Jews, and who take responsibility for the world. We are in the middle of the story. They are not finished products; I am not a finished product. I do know that I feel myself growing as a person through parenting them. As a community of parents, let’s encourage each other and our choices in good team spirit and exhibit exemplary sportsmanship. I believe this will be the strongest message of all to our kids in the game of life.