I have long advocated the “one activity at a time” policy for my children, or at least I thought I did. The “one activity” policy has morphed into a much broader “one activity not including church and school stuff.” A typical week last year in Amanda’s fourth grade year included soccer practice (in the spring and the fall), a Saturday soccer game, church on Wednesday nights, Bible study with me on Monday nights, school newspaper before school one day a week, and Girl Scouts right after school every other week. That doesn’t even take into account the playdates, birthday parties, and other family activities that insert themselves into our schedule each month–and that’s just one child!
My son Kyle is over five years younger than she is, so he doesn’t have much to do–yet. For that reason, I’ve allowed Amanda to do a bit more since it doesn’t negatively impact our family as a whole.
So, here I am thinking that I am limiting our family’s involvement (and compared to some of her friends who can’t even squeeze in a playdate, I have), and yet, there are weeks that I feel like my whole family is Under Pressure.
Carl Honore wrote Under Pressure (a follow up to In Praise of Slowness), as a means of trying to deal with the desire that kept assaulting him — to “encourage” his young son’s artistic talent and interest to a level of genius. He was stopped dead in his tracks when his son said, “I don’t want to go to a class and have a teacher tell me what to do–I just want to draw. Why do grownups have to take over everything?” (page 3).
That led Carl Honore to explore the changing role of parenting. The introduction explores the involvement that parents have had in their children’s lives over the years. His examples are drawn from many nations of the world who pressure their children in different ways. If you enjoy sociological data and situations (as I do), you will find these examples fascinating:
- An affluent town in New Jersey that has taken the bull by the horns by proclaiming certain days to be set aside, in a “Ready, Set, Relax!” campaign
- A play-based preschool in Hong Kong that is bucking the norm of having two-year-olds involved in rigorous academic instruction
- An Australian family who had been so “high-tech” that the mom sent emails to the family members upstairs to call them down for dinner who put their family on a diet from all the high-technology
- A return to discipline (as opposed to child-centered homes) in families from Ohio to Edinburgh
I am such a fan of subtitles in non-fiction books. This one has two blurbs on the front cover: “Rescuing our children from the culture of hyper-parenting” and “The new movement inspiring us to slow down, trust our instincts, and enjoy our kids.” Do you feel the pressure of those in your circle to get your child involved in so many extra-curricular activities that they end up crying, “I don’t want to go to ballet. I want to go home and play,” as one child profiled in the book told her family (page 165)? Perhaps in spite of what you know is best for your child and your family, you find yourself succombing to that desire to see your child wear the labels, “Champion. Gifted. The best.” Maybe you’ve always held firm to the belief that “children should be children,” but like some families in the book, find yourself giving in to the child’s desire for a more structured childhood.
If any of these are true, you might enjoy taking a closer look at our children who are Under Pressure.
If you’d like to win one of three copies of Under Pressure, leave a comment here. We’ll post the winners in next week’s column.
Last week in my review of Kate Jacobs’ new novel Comfort Food, I asked you what your favorite comfort was. I loved reading your responses. The winners (with their favorite comforts) are
#178 Shar (a cup of tea and a good book)
#85 Sean (a hot cup of tea and a good novel)
#62 Tonya Keener (spending time with my daughter)
#98 Sharon Jones (potato chips, orange soda, and the Red Sox)
#155 Denise (mashed potatoes and gravy, just like grandma used to make)
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