We are a sports family and there is no doubt that my husband and I promote active and busy kids. We allow them one sport per season, per kid and we claim that they can play any sport they want. I know we are lying, and every parent on this earth who says that the choice is up to the kids, well they are really lying too. Parents decide the sports their kids play, and I admit, through clenched teeth, that we are the same way.
One of my friends told me that she didn't want her boys to play hockey, so she was not going to get them on a pair of ice skates until they were in at least fifth grade.
"I know that if they do not skate early enough, they will never be competent enough to compete, and they will never play."
When I first heard her say that, I bristled at the thought that any kid would be denied a chance to play such a great game, but the deeper I dive into the youth sporting world (as a parent) the more I understand how imperative parental support is for the experience of the kid.
They need us to register them, to pay for them, to drive them to practices and games, to cheer for them and to encourage them when things don't go well. It is always, no matter how you cut it, a family affair. She was wise enough to know that she did not want her family committed to life in a hockey arena (she had grown up in northern Minnesota and knew all too well the commitment level), so she guided her family along another path.
Our nine-year-old wants to play football next fall. He weighs 60-pounds soaking wet and he has not yet played in this league where the kids have been tackling since 3rd grade. I fear he'll be pummeled and my husband is not keen on the idea either.
"We are not a football family," he calmly explains, and it is usually followed by a kid storming upstairs.
We may not be a football family, but we are a hockey family. I think that makes it hard for us to be anything else.
Our youngest still says that she is going to be a figure skater, and as we agree to help her pursue that dream, we have yet to sign her up for specialized lessons. I am sure that if she is persistent enough, we will let her try it, but she will quickly discover that she is alone in her pursuit, and it will take an incredibly aggressive dream to keep her motivated all alone. I know that we are ultimately the deciders for the sports our kids play.
Is that okay, though? I want to expose our kids to plenty of activities so that they find value in simply being active. I may push us to entertain football next fall, and I will support our youngest in her quest to be a figure skater, but I am noticing that the pull of the family is a strong one, and in all likelihood...all three of our kids will play hockey and golf (if I have anything to say about it) and the girls will likely play soccer. It is not that I am opposed to other sports, but there is a reality to the shuffling of kids from place to place, and it just seems to be the order of things. I do hope that I will recognize the needs of each of our children, within the confines of our family, but as separate and unique people who deserve a chance to explore what might make them happiest.