Thursday, August 18, 2011

Overbooked Children 20 Years Later

For the record I am not a mommy blogger. Or on second thought maybe I am one of the original mommy bloggers; consider that I started writing my yearly "painfully honest" holiday letters around 1985 and when I published Innovations for our Cranmore Mt. Lodge I frequently opined about raising our sons, Aaron and Daniel.  This past week my friend, Angela DeCicco, Facebook shared a New York Times article: Family Happiness and the Overbooked Child.

Whatever your current status is: parent with small children, grandparent, aunt, uncle, parent with teenagers, please read the article. I did. And it made me think back 20 years ago when our children wanted to participate in activities or learn a musical instrument.  We had to weigh each request carefully, not just from the monetary impact, but also impact on their time, our time and quite frankly their real interest.

So let's see. Here is a quick rundown of formal ACTIVITIES that Aaron and Daniel enjoyed: alpine skiing training and competitive racing (both), soccer camp (Daniel), little league baseball (Aaron), Nordic skiing training and competitive racing (Daniel), Cub Scouts (Aaron) and guitar lessons (both).  From my "edited" memories I am happy to report:
  • Our spare closet still plays home to the alpine skiing trophies, medals, ribbons and I can still remember 10 year old Aaron returning from the 1991 Junior Ski Meisters Awards night. He had received a number of awards and exclaimed: "This was the best night of my whole life!"
  • Daniel won some kind of recognition at summer soccer camp, but for the life of me I cannot remember the details. (But be assured I have photos.)
  • In 1992 Aaron played baseball for the John Fuller Farm League and he was the first recipient of the James Reed Memorial Trophy for being the "most improved player."
  • In 1996 Daniel participated in the inaugural "Ski to the Clouds" race. He still holds the record for the youngest person to x-country ski UP the Mt. Washington Auto Road.
  • Guitar clearest memory is: after multiple months of lessons, Grandma Birdie asked the boys to play her a song. They managed to "pick" out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!" Grandma Birdie was a pretty good audience (just a little eye-rolling), after all that is a grandma's duty. But Aaron and Daniel soon put down the guitars. Playing a musical instrument seemed not to be part of their DNA...the lessons ceased.
Today I am writing this post to share with you my thoughts about providing opportunities for your children. I have mentioned before that my mother insisted that my siblings and I learn how to play a musical instrument. I have no idea what this cost my parents over the 15 + years that we took lessons. I was never good in sports, but my parents did allow my middle sister to take tennis lessons and we all experienced rudimentary horseback riding (it was free).  My brother played sports; he has a lot of trophies and mended bones.  But details aside, I have always been thankful for these opportunities which allowed me to learn and appreciate the arts.

Opportunities are not always wrapped in a formal training program, be it a camp or team. Sometimes we can provide our children with opportunities by allowing them to learn a skill and practice the skill in day to day life. For example, when Aaron was about 12 Dennis encouraged or invited him to learn how to cook breakfast for our inn guests. Aaron found he liked cooking and he could be rewarded with compliments and a small paycheck. If you like to write then encourage your children. My dad liked to write silly poetry. I had an uncle that loved to draw - pencil sketching, and all these years later that innate ability has come alive in my sisters and at least one of my nephews. My husband loves to play the piano. It comes naturally to him. As little boys, Aaron and Daniel watched intently.

To my friends that have little children or are expecting babies, enjoy the moments. Encourage your children, but remember they will always keep surprising you. Want to know what our "overbooked children" are doing now 20 years later?  Well, I am going to tell you.

Aaron and Dennis at the CIA - August 2, 2011
Aaron is now (eight years after his college graduation) enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America's ACE Program. In fact earlier this month we visited with Aaron at the CIA. (see photo of Aaron and Dennis).

Daniel plays a great harmonica (see YouTube video below- Daniel is the one on the right). And now we have learned he is teaching himself how to play the piano! And believe me, he gets it. Music is part of him. So what if he is not a classical guitarist...Grandma Birdie was proud to have Daniel play piano for her friends earlier this month. By the way, he took up downhill skiing again this year.

Daniel playing the piano - August 2011

The truth is most children will find their way, their passion.  And when they do, learning becomes fun and they will happily spend hours with their chosen art.

Your thoughts? Are you overbooking your children?
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ridgely johnson said...

I loved this ;-) You may not be a mommy blogger, but you are a "over the top" Mom... how lucky your boys are. (and I am to be your friend)

Judy Helfand said...

Ridgely, is funny how filled days become with activities. I see my friends with little girls talking about ballet, tap, soccer, oh yes and cheer-leading (and the cheer-leading is for 1st graders!!)
As always, some of the best times were just regular bike riding, swimming and for Aaron and Daniel playing ice hockey on our frozen pond. For my generation it was street games like kick the can!
Thanks for stopping by...

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