March 12, 2007

It is baseball season so over-scheduling is a part of my life these days.  Or at least it feels that way to me because our normal schedule of  enjoying lazy Saturdays is innundated with a practice, game schedules, snack schedules and volunteer hours. 

My son loves to play baseball and we fully support him.   Unfortunately he loves to play in a very competitive little league close to our home.  This little league group is volunteer; he doesn’t have to play and we do not encourage their over-competitiveness but we do support him.  This league holds four practices a week plus games.   They recommend, beyond the regular practices, special professional coaching.  Perhaps recommend isn’t the right word.  Strongly encourage is more like it. – and no, we have never thought it necessary to give our son professional coaching at 7.  In fact, we think it down right ludicrous. 

After the season, they have All-Star teams that last all summer long – practice every day and double and triple header games on the weekend, even down to the four year old t-ballers. All parents are pushing and trying and working to get their kid chosen for the All-Stars.    When summer is over, the kids register for fall ball.  Which is a “relaxed” and fun season of one practice and one game a week.  At the end of fall ball, coaches pull together select teams to play all winter. 

And this isn’t their only sport.  Most kids we meet at the field play football, soccer and basketball.  Staying busy every weekend from January to December, with a few weekends off for holidays if they are lucky.

What are we losing in this process?  I am no psychologist but it seems to me that with so little interaction, we might be losing the most important relationships of our lives; that with our children.   And how can children grow up to be good giving adults if all they learn is that the world revolves around their interests?   The entire family takes vacations for their games or forgoes spending time together because of their tournaments.  When do they learn that life isn’t all about them and that other people matter?

Don’t get me wrong, I love sports and I think sports is an excellent way to build self confidence.  But it shouldn’t push out everything else including and most importantly relationships and time to be bored and to think. 

It is moments like this that I realize children have become just one more possession.  We want bragging rights of doing more, being better, playing more, having the best kid.  I am not immune, I feel behind every spring and start planning workout sessions with my son so he can be competitive (in 7 year old baseball!).   Only in my tranquil home does the value of simplicity reign.  We have to compete with others outside this house and sometimes it is hard not to place our value in how we measure up to others rather than how we measure up to ourselves.

We will keep to the allowance of one scheduled interest.  Baseball is what our son likes.  He isn’t the best, he could definitely be better with special coaching and working daily with him and if he played more often than just the spring season…. but why?  On the remote chance that he will fall into the 1% that makes it to the major leagues?  What about everything else he can accomplish in the meantime?  Most importantly, driving it daily, in and out, will just kill the joy.  I wonder how many kids experience burnout before puberty.

I hope someday to see a return to normalcy.  A return to valuing time spent together.  I hope someday we can teach our children the true joy of sitting patiently and watching the butterfly land on a flower, take the pollen and leave in search of more harvest.  I hope that some day, kids learn the joy of watching a baseball fly through the air and not worry about it if they just miss it. 


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