Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sports Schmorts

On our way to our dentist and eye doctor appointments earlier this week, the kids and I got on the topic of school and sports.  Connor asked me if he could play football this year, and I said, "Not until 3rd grade, bud."  Well, this proceeded to break his heart, just like it does most of the time right around the different sports sign-up times.  And we had a long, drawn-out conversation where he cried and I apologized and tried to help him understand my point of view.  Every season, we seem to have the same conversation, and it gets longer and more dramatic the older he gets.  At the beginning of preschool, I set up a "rule" (like I think most parents do with their kids, especially their first-born kids). The rule is: No sports until 3rd grade, and then only one (or a max of two if Dad undermines me).

The first-born rule I remember my mom had for me was about ear piercing.  She said not until I was 16.  Well, through many a tear-filled conversation and endless begging and pleading sessions, I wittled her down to 13 and then to 10.  It was an enormous battle that lasted for many years before I broke her down.  And after that, my sisters got to pierce their ears whenever they wanted.  The rule expired with me. So, in retrospect and in learning from my mother's mistake, I made a random "age" rule that I knew wasn't very far away and could easily stand strong through the assaults and tears of my own children.

I have many reasons for making this rule. 
First, it was the latest I could get Jason to agree on.  My original plan was for none of our kids to play sports until middle school or high school, and even then, I secretly hoped they wouldn't play any... or maybe only one.
Second, sports are expensive!!  I cannot believe how much parents sink into kids' sports.  Not only gear and fees, but also gas to drive to watch away games, money for meals when you are out of town or staying late three or FIVE nights a week for practices and can't be home to make dinner. 
Third, there are awful, clique-ish, just plain psychotic parents out there who either are living vicariously through their children's sports career because of their own past failures (or successes, hmmpph) in sports (or life in general) or are so obsessed with winning ugly, stupid trophies and lame, meaningless bragging rights that they place an unnecessary amount of stress on their own children and ridicule or belittle other children (or are just plain, downright immature and ridiculous to everyone) during games and practices and in the aisles of the grocery store or the school parking lot, and are an embarassment to everyone. **deep breath**
Fourth, it takes up SO MUCH TIME. 
Fifth, sports don't add up when compared to the importance of academics and plain old play in a child's life!  Sixth, while I don't know the statistics, I know that the chances of any kid actually making a successful career from sports are slim to none, and I am just going to assume that the odds aren't made any better if they start in preschool or in fifth grade or even high school (gasp!!).

Now, I could keep going on and on, but I will stop here and provide my mini version of a disclaimer.

** Sports most definitely provide an outlet for energy and frustration and they provide kids with exercise and activity that they might not normally have if they were just sitting at home on the couch.  Sports teaches teamwork, sportmanship, and other great things.  I also know kids who really love their sport (or sports) and are thriving in other areas because of the boost to their esteem, increase in friends, etc.  I am not going to completely trash all sports here, and I really do think high school and even middle school sports are great for teens and tweens. **

That being said, I still think that organized sports for tiny, cute, innocent elementary school (and especially preschool) kiddos is just plain ridiculous.  It's developmentally inappropriate, to say the least.  Maybe I think that way because I am raising my kids in a town where as soon as a kid is potty-trained and signed up for preschool, parents are stuffing little tiny mitts on their hands, plunking a baseball cap on their head and throwing them out in a field somewhere so all the parents can gather round the ball field and laugh and take pictures of them.  They spend more time refocusing and yelling directions than anything else.  Not to mention, at this young age, they are spending hours "practicing", which is pretty much the same scenario as the games.  Why?

Oh wait, here is my guess, so the family can miss dinner together, rush around all evening, and then put their kids to bed too late at night with no time for story or prayer or homework.  So that the kids go straight from daycare or school to practice and straight from practice to bed, only to get up the next morning way over-tired, only to do it all again.  That makes sense (sarcasm).  What happened to kids having time to be kids?  What happened to parents realizing that sleep and together time with the family is more important than all the sportmanship and trophies in the world? 

I just don't get it.  Maybe it's because I am not a sports fan in general.  I could really care less.  One of the reasons I love my husband as much as I do is because he isn't into sports either.  He doesn't watch any televised sport, he doesn't keep up on any team, and he doesn't even care if he misses the Super Bowl.  Just writing this makes my heart swell with happiness.  I had an ex-boyfriend once who would watch ANY sport on TV and would plan entire weekends and evening around games and who was playing who. It was a slow, agonizing torture for me.  I am so, so thankful that I never have to go through that again.  Of course, he loves hunting, and I am a hunting widow almost four months out of the year.  But that brings home the burger.  What does sports bring home?  More laundry and a trophy to collect dust.  You can't eat dirty socks for dinner....

Maybe it's because I am not super athletic.  I started playing fastpitch in middle school.  I really loved it, but I wasn't that great, and I had to work really, really hard to even be decent.  I did... and I played for four years, before I went into Running Start and had to choose academics over softball.  There was no way I could have done both.  I played again one year on a co-ed team, and it was fun, but I had to work really hard again, and the truth is, I think they only let me play because they needed the girl... sad face.  I am a runner, which does take up time, and again, I am not super good at, but I love it.  I love the stress relief and the fitness and weight loss benefits.  So, I understand sports to some degree... but since I was never a successful jock, maybe I am jealous.

Maybe it's because of my upbringing.  We spent our time as kids building forts and running around the yard, playing tag and picking berries and doing chores.  You know, like those stupid Facebook posts about "If your childhood was.... blah, blah, blah, then repost."  My mom limited our TV and made sure we had a strong love of reading and always made us eat dinner together.  I would spend rainy Saturdays curled up in a chair reading book after book of The Babysitter's Club.  (Yes, I was a nerd.) I know my mom didn't have the money to let us play sports, and she didn't have our dad around to help, but even if those two barriers had been removed, I don't think that would have changed anything. 

There are lots of theories that I have about why I feel so strongly about this, but whatever it is because of (and believe it or not, it is NOT because I have an irrational fear of paralysis or death due to a freak sporting accident involving my child!  If you have read some of my other posts, then you would understand.) I am not changing my mind.  Even if this is a stupid "first-born rule", I am sticking to my guns. 

We live way out of town, we have busy lives already, and I have different priorities than a lot of people.  I want my children to put God first, then family and friends, then education, and then... sports, hunting, whatever.  I want them to have a good, solid foundation in reading, writing and math before sports starts to eat at their homework and play and sleep time.  I don't want our lives to revolve around their sports schedule.  At least, not for one more year... when my rule expires. 

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