What’s the right balance between scheduled activities and unstructured time for our kids?
By Ken Partridge
I had a completely unstructured childhood. I was never a Cub or Scout. I was not a member of any sports teams. No piano, violin, recorder, or even a ukulele for me. No tutor sessions for school, or learning other languages. And I didn’t miss it.
I played sports. Basketball, baseball, and tennis were regulars, but I never joined a league. It was skins versus shirts on the court, a pile of gloves randomly divided into two piles on the diamond, and my most common tennis partners were the huge shipping bay doors on the warehouse across the street.
Cycling was, by far, my favourite. On weekends and during the summer, a group of us would hit the streets and go everywhere in the city, even off the peninsula and across the bridge. Mom would always ask where we were going and I would usually answer, “I don’t know.” There was no plan. Just hit the streets and go wherever our bikes took us.
It wasn’t until years later as I was approaching university that I realized I was different from almost all my friends. They were members of sports teams or Scouts, learning to play instruments the whole time we were growing up together and I never knew. It wasn’t something we talked about or shared. Even though in my memory it seemed like we spent every waking moment together, it turns out there were whole chunks of their lives I knew nothing about.
That was the first time I ever started to miss something I never had. They did cool things in Scouts like camping and learning survival skills. Sports teams led to trophies and peer recognition. What had I missed? Why didn’t my parents get me involved in these types of things?
Skip ahead a few years and I’m out of school and starting a family or my own. I decide I’m not going to be like my parents and I’m going to get my son involved. Every time I saw an announcement for some sort of activity in our community, I would get the details and bring them home. Pretty soon my son was a Beaver, playing soccer, learning basketball and lacrosse, signed up for intramurals in school, and enrolled in French immersion. We were on the go all the time.
I’m not sure when I had the realization, but it hit me at some point that I was doing all this more for me than I was for him. Did he really want all this activity? Surely there was some sort of happy medium between my childhood and the one I was shaping for him.
We eventually found that equilibrium. Some things fell away, like Cubs and basketball, while others stuck. He loved soccer and still plays today. He’s even coached and trained others. Once I learned to stop pushing, he found what he really liked and we kept doing that, while those things he wasn’t devoted to were let go.
This is all a long-winded way of explaining why I was so keen on following up on the idea for this issue’s cover story. Some of us parents, whatever our motivation, feel compelled to schedule almost every minute of our kids’ lives. We keep them constantly on the go from the time we wake them up till bedtime. Is this even healthy for them? Don’t they deserve some time to just be kids? Maybe they need work/life balance as much as we do.
I may have missed out on organized activities when I was young, but I never felt deprived. My only enemy back then was the weather. Rainy days were the worst. It wasn’t until I was approaching adulthood and responsibilities that I developed this idea I was lacking in some way.
An activity or two wouldn’t have hurt, but I had a great childhood. Given the chance I would likely return to those times with little hesitation.
Hey, anyone know where I can find a warehouse with big loading bay doors? I think I still have a racket in the basement somewhere.
Announcing our new editor
She’s an Olympian, a businesswoman, a partner, and a mom and she is the new editor of Our Children! We are excited to announce Tracy Stuart will be joining the editorial team of Metro Guide Publishing. Tracy grew up in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. She is a graduate of Acadia University with a Bachelor of Physical Education, and a Master of Science from the University of Calgary. She also holds a chef’s diploma from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York. Tracy has travelled the world as a two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medal rower. She and her husband, Jared, own and operate Caldera Distilleries in River John, Nova Scotia. She is also a Rodan and Fields consultant and business builder. Tracy, Jared, and their two daughters, Brooklyn and Olivia, hang their hats in both River John and Halifax, where the girls attend the Halifax Grammar School.