Booking the lives of children

     When my children were young they played Little League baseball and attended scouts. Many of our friends’ children did as well, in addition to their piano lessons, dance, karate, and church school. 
     It seemed as I spoke with other parents that this level of involvement with extra curricular activities was the norm and I began to question my own instincts to let the kids have the time I thought was necessary for creative play, for discovering who they are without being bombarded with scheduled activities. In a moment of self-doubt, I asked my sons if they felt gypped because their friends got to do all of these things and they didn’t. “No! I like to play!” 
     And play they did. They built forts and went in search of stream critters and made treasure maps and played Hide and Seek and Capture the Flag. They had neighborhood Olympics and read great books, created masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, made potions, climbed trees, kept detailed notes as they spied on one another, had back yard carnivals, and played kick ball. 
     It was a rare occurrence to hear them complain that they were bored. TV time, including video, was limited to an hour per day. Computer time was limited to 30 minutes per day, or an hour after they turned ten to accommodate more sophisticated activities.
     So many kids today have little time just to be. There is so much pressure on us as parents to live up to the standards of the people around us. I want to laugh and cry when I see the Baby Einstein and educational materials designed to create little geniuses and when the children can’t live up to being the best, most brilliant, most athletic, most fashionable kid on the block, excelling at each thing put before them, then clearly they (or their parents) are a failure. What pressure they endure from the most well meaning of loved ones!  
     I have come to believe that the thing that matters most is that they are fully aware of their own inner light, that they are able to call on their inner resources: creativity, courage, contentedness, acceptance, forgiveness, and happiness. Allowing the time to discover who they are in this world without the constant intervention on the part of the adults in their lives. Guidance yes. Loving support and encouragement, by all means. But trying to mold them into the some preconceived notion of perfection, or into the person we wish we had become can only be detrimental to their well-being.- RDW (6-26-07)

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