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I Have Become the Parent I Didn’t Want to Be

Little girls (4 years) wearing leotards in gym.

Chances are my daughter will never be an Olympic gymnast or a concert pianist, but it’s my job to encourage her nonetheless, right?

My 5.5-year-old is involved in just about everything, which means I have become the parent I didn’t want to be. She’s an over-scheduled, under-free timed kindergartner. She doesn’t have nearly enough time for creative, free play, and her after school hours are jammed packed with just about every extracurricular activity you can think of.

How did this happen?

For one, she’s interested in just about everything. The few activities she does not participate in are based on the sheer virtue that there are not enough hours in the day. She likes to dance and sing—ballet and theater, here we come! She loves doing cartwheels… might as well sign up for gymnastics. She’s very good at kicking a ball around—how about a little soccer? And so it goes…

Then there’s the truth of our modern world—kids can’t roam their communities the way they did generations before. So instead, kids come home from school and spend the remainder of the day whining for screen time or fighting with their siblings. If the option is screen time or sibling brawls, then I might as well sign her up for art class!

The problem I really have with this situation (putting aside the fact that I’m running out of money from all of these insanely expensive activities) is that she doesn’t have any special affection for any of these activities. A year of ballet and she’s starting to get bored. She doesn’t exactly have stage presence, like she’s going to be an actress. There are only so many cartwheels you can do in gymnastics. And so on and so forth.

Do I continue to spend these buckets of money and truck her here, there, and everywhere in an effort to continue to grow her interests? Or do I surrender and let her come up with the one thing she actually wants to do? I fear I may spend too much time navigating the sibling fights and screen time arguments until she comes to a true passion, or even a self-motivated interest.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all “interests” of hers. They are just general, light interests that I encourage so that I can expose her to everything. However, there’s no doubt I’m overdoing it. I just don’t know how to cut back when she doesn’t seem to have a super strong affection for anything in particular. Should we just keep trying different activities until we hit one? What if we never hit one? Or what if we give up on one before she has had time to properly develop her interest?

My oldest has had a passion for sports essentially since he came out of the womb. It was easy to direct him—sign him up for sports classes and see which sports he excelled in. Now, he too is over-scheduled with travel baseball, but I have come to terms with it because it is his passion. He is able to spend time outdoors being physical. And he’s not playing video games 24/7. It’s a perfect fit.

Nothing is fitting quite the same for my daughter. What is my responsibility as her mother, her encourager, and the keeper of our checkbook???


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