All it took was a talent show at family camp to bring up my mommy insecurities. When my oldest son signed up to ‘perform’ with his best friend I’d heard the words, “comedy show” mentioned and I was already scared.
There I sat as precious child after precious child displayed their skills. . .piano playing, guitar performances, even an adorable summary of the book of Exodus. The counselors announced my son’s name and I felt the gut punch of insecurity when the 8 year-olds stood on stage and performed a pretend fist fight to the “Eye of a Tiger”.
My inner monologue went something like this,
“Where have I gone wrong?”
“Why have I never signed him up for piano lessons? We own a piano, for heaven’s sake.”
“Maybe we should sign up for Awanas? Or a dance class? Or…”
In the activity realm, our family has kept things pretty simple, but that plan did not come from my own childhood experience.
My mom drove me to weekly piano lessons (for 13 years!), ballet classes, tennis lessons, play practices, and even synchronized swimming (3x a week).
Doing all. the. things worked back then because my younger brother and I were home-schooled (yes in the ’80s!). With our school work completed by noon, we had margin in our day for loads and loads of extracurricular activities.
But now that I’m the mom to four boys? FOUR. Who all came within 6 1/2 years. There is no way I can keep up the same level of activity my mom did.
With my oldest son I tried to “keep up with the Joneses,”signing him up for all. the. things. . .Kindermusik, gym class, swimming lessons. Part of my reasoning came from my own extroverted needs (must be with other adults!). Another part came from a “not wanting to fail at motherhood.” It seemed like the good moms went to music classes with their toddlers. And the good moms went to library story time. And the good moms . . .
Once my fourth son was born I kinda chucked the “good mom” manual. I stepped out of the game and did what worked best for our schedule and my sanity.
Now I continue to do a basic cost/reward analysis for each “opportunity” which comes my way:
- How much money will it actually cost? (just got asked to join a $350 Chamber baseball team from my oldest. . .easy ‘no’)
- How much time does it require? (1 practice + 1 game x 4 boys = I don’t think so).
- What am I saying ‘no’ to when I say ‘yes’? (more activities = less unstructured play & brother bonding)
- How will this affect the pace of our day? (rushing through homework, racing out the door, running back home for dinner)
- Will this activity truly promote the concept of teamwork? (or could we learn that within our family of 6?)
- Will my son gain much needed social time with his classmates? (or would more play dates help?)
- Will my son improve his overall health & fitness? (or would a family bike ride & trip to the park suffice?)
- Will this help my son earn a college scholarship? (Ha! Who am I kidding? We tend towards the brain more than braun category)
- Will involvement help boost my son’s self esteem?
- Will my son enjoy this activity and is he naturally gifted in it?
You may have a lists of questions to consider when options come your way.
The key for me is not saying ‘yes’ because I feel like I ‘should’ or because everyone else is. Or trying to live vicariously through my children’s achievements. Or (even worse) wanting to look like a super mom because of my super performing boys.
If my child is a super star it is because God gave them a gift for His glory, not mine.
You know what? The next year at family camp I came with fresh eyes. Maybe my boys didn’t perform a perfect piano piece or an awesome break dance. But my oldest had a great time with his friend, with a return ‘comedy show’ (more memorable than any formal performance). My second son bravely signed up and sang a solo of the hymn, “Speak O Lord.”
God was glorified. And I was humbled, once again.
Do you struggle wondering if you are a bad mom when you say ‘no’ to activities your friends say ‘yes’ to?
Heather has been married since the turn-of-the-century (which sounds more impressive than it actually is) and is the mother of four young boys (born exactly, to the day, within 6 1/2 years . . . just like she’d always planned). Heather weekly interviews guests on her podcast. They discuss motherhood and chronicle the messy journey of “relentlessly replacing ‘me’ with ‘He’ — sharing the daily struggle of remaining God-centered.