What we’re not doing

This post, by Holly Howley and published on Mamalode, really resonated with me and got me thinking about…well… what we’re doing, and even more to the point, what we’re not doing.

Alden’s four-and-almost-a-half.

Alden doesn’t do soccer at the moment. Not the organized kind, the kind with games and t-shirts and dads coaching (mostly dads, right?) and orange sections afterwards. He has friends who are doing soccer, and Alden was kinda thinking he was going to, also, but, no, he isn’t doing soccer at the moment.

And we didn’t make it to the ski hill this winter. Not once. Many of our friends live for winter and spend most weekends skiing. A good number of Alden’s friends have mastered the bunny hill, ridden the chair, and some have even skiied all the way down.

He’s not in dance lessons. Despite the fact that between the ages of two-and-ahalf and three-and-a-half, he danced constantly, and used to play with his tap dance cane as often as…well, anything else.

I started learning to play the violin when I was four. I can barely remember NOT playing the violin. Alden is not taking violin lessons currently, or any other music lessons, either.

Alden isn’t doing gymnastics lessons.

Heck, even his play dates are fairly few and far between, at least planned ones.

It’s very, very easy for me to slide into a state of comparison. To get bitten by the pernicious Bug of Inadequacy.

Are we limiting Alden’s future potential as a skier/soccer player/gymnast/violinist/dancer/play-date-haver? Are we Not Doing all of these things because we’re busy? Lazy? Financially strapped? Indecisive? Overprotective?

Isn’t the crazy whirl of shuttling to various activities a central feature of exactly the kind of suburban lifestyle we claim to be living in Missoula to avoid, and if the whirl is in fact unavoidable, isn’t now a little soon for it to start?

Josh and I talk about it, and most of the time we aren’t too worried about it.

But sometimes, the tiniest push will send one or the other of us into a Slough of Despond,  imagining that other families do more, and thereby do better by their kids. It’s hard to stay focused on what we (at the risk of talkin’ some potty talk) DO do.

So I’ll tell myself, “Alden goes to school full-time, and Josh and I both work full-time, or as close to it as we can get. His school year included 10 weeks of swimming lessons and 8 weeks of gymnastics. He’s not taking violin lessons but I bet he’s exposed to more music being played than most kids. Since December Alden has been to Tucson, New York City and Massachusetts; he’s going to Atlanta and Alabama with us in a few weeks. Alden can hike Waterworks hill without being carried, and he rides his Skuut bike all the way home. He can identify tons of flowers and birds we see regularly. He’s ended up playing with friends outside of school three times since last Thursday and on each of the last few weekends…”

And just like that, I’ve slid down in the other direction, toward Panicky Self-Defense, proving to myself through Alden’s many “can-do’s” that we’re doing The Right Thing.

As if such a thing exists, and as if, (if such a thing DID exist) it would be a) static and b) universal.

It’s quite a hard and fine balancing act, staying up on the tightwire of trust, above the pit of self-doubt, buffeted by undeserved smug satisfaction on one side and undeserved self-condemnation on the other.

I hold tight to the fact that Alden is, after all, only four and a half. These choices about what we do and don’t DO will continue; I hope that Alden’s mama keeps growing up enough to let go of the self-doubt and comparisons that come with making them.

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5 thoughts on “What we’re not doing

  1. While I don’t have kids, this still resonated with me. I have to say that your lack of pretense is one of the most beautiful things about you, Grace. And there are many. I appreciate this very much.

  2. I look at the kids at our school, admittedly a bit older than 4.5 and I am stunned by their schedules. It would be a pretty full life if they just went to our school, did their homework and enjoyed their extra and co-curricular activities. But no, there are club sports, music lessons and performances, service learning , and video games/facebook/texting. If one is healthy and loved, there’s freedom to discover ones own passions and follow them with all the intensity of youth. From a completely unprejudiced point of view I think you guys are doing a great job.

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