I was pregnant with my oldest child, I traded in my swanky sports car
for a clunky minivan. Little did I know at the time, it would become
my stockcar for the Mommy 500 - an 18 year race for kiddie perfection
whose finish line is paved in acceptance letters to prestigious
first time I rounded the racetrack was two weeks into my maternal
career when I received a postcard from an enterprise that I'll call
never too early to begin thinking about college," announced the primary
colored card - which went on to list of course offerings for infants
ages six-weeks and up. Yes, Gymbananas had a special message for me - a
sleep-deprived, hormonally challenged new mother - and it was that if I
denied my baby adequate exposure to bubbles and clapping songs before
he learned to roll over, I would irreparably hinder his chances of
getting a into Harvard.
I could say Oy Vey, I was giving a perky woman on the telephone my
credit card number to secure my son's spot in the Wednesday morning
didn't take long for me to realize that the Gymbananas incident was
merely a practice lap in the Mommy 500. Every time I went to a
playgroup or birthday party, my wheels began to spin.
Ari's mom enrolled him in computer camp for tots, should I enroll Brandon, too...at $200 a pop?Or
should I follow Rachel's mom's lead and invest the money in building my
son's Spanish skills - never mind that he can't really speak English
yet. And what about that Music for Munchkins class that Marissa's mom
was talking about? I mean what if my toddler is a musical prodigy and I
don't find out until he's already too old to learn the Suzuki violin
such intense pressure to maximize our children's extracurricular
resumes revving in the early years, it's no wonder that by the time
grade school rolls around, we Jewish parents feel compelled to floor
our pedals to the medal 24/7. Nevertheless, experts like Dr. Alvin
Rosenfeld author of The Overscheduled Child: Avoiding the
Hyper-Parenting Trap believe that our families are in dire need of a
in our parental guts, we know it's true. That schlepping from one
activity to the next while eating dinner out of paper bags in the
backseat of a minivan can't possibly be in our kids' best interest. In
fact, in a recent survey of 14,000 parents by Parenting Magazine and
AOL revealed a whopping 86% feel their children are overscheduled.
why are so many of us still hightailing our way around the racetrack?
Because whenever we almost muster up the courage to hit the brakes, we
glimpse those checkered flags beckoning from the finish line -
reminding us that if we don't fuel up our kids with everything from
pinch-potting to pitching lessons, they'll be left in the dust come
college application time.
Dr. Rosenfeld, holds that this widely accepted notion is a "tragic"
misconception. "Colleges are not looking for well-rounded people," he
said recently on NBC's Today Show. "They are looking for well-rounded
classes. They want to balance a superior musician with a superior
athlete." In other words, universities are looking for a student with
a passion, not with a parentally orchestrated existence.
it will take at least a generation before we fully understand the
long-term impact of spending the bulk of one's childhood strapped into
an SUV, the data collected to date suggest anxiety, social
difficulties, stagnated creativity, lack of independence and
intolerance of boredom may be only the tip of the popsicle when it
comes to the negative ramifications of overscheduling.
is not to say that there is no place for extracurricular activities in
our children's lives; organized activities play an important role in
their physical, social and emotional development. The trick is in
striking a healthy extracurricular balance for your family.
following suggestions will help you steer clear of the Mommy 500 and
ensure that your children enjoy the bountiful benefits of
extracurriculars without burning out before their b'nai mitzvot.
Change your mindset. Rather than feeling guilty about failing to cram
an activity into your kids' every waking moment; feel good about
providing time for their independence and creativity to rise and bake.
Try embracing the one activity per season rule. Limiting a child to
one extracurricular at a time allows him to enjoy his activity for all
it's worth. ·
Shed that Competitive edge. As perfectly put by Dr. Rosenfeld : "Golf
used to be America's most competitive adult sport; now it's
parenting." Taking a cut-throat approach to our children's activities
is detrimental on about a zillion levels, so don't be afraid to duck
out of the race. ·
Help them find their passion. If our kids are lucky enough to find an
activity that really floats their boogie boards- whether it be baseball
or bug collecting - we owe it to them to help them pursue it. ·
Don't be afraid to be different. Have confidence in the decisions you
make for your crew, regardless of what anyone else is doing.
Duke Estroff is an award-winning educator and author of the popular
parenting book, "Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House,
2007). Her parenting articles appear in over 50 national, regional, and
local publications including Parents, Good Housekeeping, and the
Jerusalem Post. Her four school-age children give her a steady flow in
SHARON DUKE ESTROFF
Duke Estroff is an award-winning educator and author of "Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House,
2007). Her parenting articles appear in over 100 publications including
Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Day. Her popular Undercover Mom Blog on Net Family News
gives digital immigrant parents timely, straightforward advice on raising digital native kids.