I Let My Child Pick Her Activities
One mom's lesson about lessons.
This winter, I signed my two-year-old up for two classes: one I picked and the other I let her choose. I picked an age-appropriate art class, titled “Make a Mess.” The class involves finger painting, making pictures with soap bubbles, food dye and all the messy things I don’t have the courage to do at home. The other class, the one she chose, was ice skating lessons.
I didn’t want to sign her up for ice skating. She is 2-almost-3 and has never fit anyone’s description of a physically daring child. Plus, all the advice I read suggests holding off on skating lessons until 4. But she’s obsessed with figure skating and loves to twirl around the hardwood floors on stockinged feet declaring herself an ice princess. When she discovered her friend, who is a whole year older, was taking lessons she begged: “Oh, but pwease!”
I bought her ice skates for Christmas and her dad took her to the ice rink at the park near our house. She was nothing if not determined, falling and getting up, with her little jaw clenched with effort. So, I signed her up.
Both classes began at the same time and one was an epic failure. My daughter hates making a mess. After the first class, where she was required to mix yarn with glue to make some sort of concoction on wax paper, she threw down her crayon and declared, “I hate makin’ a mess! I won’t do it!” And she hasn’t. When I brought her to the class the next week, she refused to do anything except color with crayons. The third week, she threw herself on the floor and sobbed when I told her we were going to “Make a Mess” class.
“Why are you making her go?” My husband asked.
“Because I paid $30 for the class.”
He frowned. “If she hates it. Don’t make her go.”
So, we quit.
Meanwhile, ice skating has been a challenge she’s embraced. She ends most lessons tired and “fwustrated,” but each week she wants to go back and try again. The first week was harder for me than her. I hated seeing her fall and cry. I wanted to go out there and coach her myself—to hold her hand and cushion the blows. “Are you sure you want to skate again?” I asked her after the first week. Her face was red with tears and cold and her knees were wet from the ice. “Yes, I wuv skatin’” she said. My daughter is only 2, almost 3, but this experience is hers, wholly and completely. It’s not something I would have chosen, but that makes sense, she isn’t me.
Two does seem a little young for organized activities. But as my husband reminded me, this is something she wants, it’s something she’s working toward all on her own and it’s something she won’t quit no matter how many times she falls. I know, I’ve asked her.
I used to believe I would enroll my child in a moderate amount of age-appropriate activities until she became old enough to pick for herself, perhaps around 5. I never imagined I’d be hauling my 2-year-old to the ice arena every week discussing the difference in skating blades with hockey moms. At a recent playdate, a couple of moms began talking about how they aren’t enrolling their children in activities until they are in elementary school. The reason being, they wanted their kids to just be kids. But part of being children is letting them have a voice and independence.
We aren’t in skating because I dream of gold medals or elite competitions. We are here because this is something she wants. It is about having fun and achieving a goal. And it’s something she is determined to conquer, no matter what. I admire that kind of grit in a toddler. This summer, I am signing her up for T-ball and maybe soccer. I want her to learn a sport and all her little school buddies will be playing in her league. But if she hates it, I’m not going to force the issue. I’ll swallow the $50 enrollment fee. Because in the end, this isn’t about me and what I want, it’s about that budding little person I’m trying to raise.
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