for release January 24, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Too Many Activities - Revisited
I did not expect the heated response I got to a column on whether parents should attend every single thing that their children are involved in. In the column, I said that while parents should put high priority on attending everything they possibly can, sometimes it is okay to not go to an activity and not feel guilty about it. The thoughts readers shared were insightful and I thought you might learn from them (see <http://www.thirdway.com/aw/conversation>).
Some people agreed: "Just wanted to say an AMEN to that, and thanks. There are enough things to kick in 'Mommy guilt' without worrying about witnessing each little thing our children do." A stay-at-home Mom for 13 years mentioned how when people learn she is at home, they not only expect her to be at every event, they expect her to volunteer, serve refreshments, make cookies. "Your writing made me ... feel good about the things I can do and relax about the things I just can't," wrote Catharine. Many talked about scaling back their children's activities, setting limits.
But in the end there were probably more negative responses than positive, balanced between men and women, along these lines: "One day, there will come a day when that child won't want you around so much, and the more uninvolved [you are] in that child's life, the quicker it will come," said Virginia.
Allison, a 13 year old girl, wrote: "My parents DO come to most all of my activities. They are very supportive of what I do and it is very encouraging to me when they come to my basketball games, come to the plays where I only have one line, and even come to cheerleading tryouts so they can comfort me in my disappointment or congratulate me in my accomplishment. It always disappoints me when my parents don't show up."
Paul wrote, "[Parent attendance] has a profound effect on children. I know, because my wife's parents never went to any of her activities. She is currently working on her doctorate in education and still talks about the effect it's had on her."
Catherine wrote, "My Mom rarely came to any of my school activities. I cannot tell you how much her absence affected me. I didn't even realize how much it affected me until a couple of years ago, and I'm 40 years old. One day it just hit me that my Mom wasn't ever really there for me. For whatever reason, I felt I just wasn't important enough for her to take the time out to support me. Now I know my Mom loves me and she would be very surprised to know how her lack of involvement hurt me."
Many parents felt the way Louann described: "I have two daughters who both play basketball. Nothing brings me more pleasure than to watch them compete. Each has two games a week, which translates to four nights a week that my husband and I are in a gym somewhere cheering them on. I'm don't want to miss a game! When they are graduated, grown, and out of our house, Lord willing, I'll have plenty of hours "to have a life." And if I don't, at least my girls will know I was there for them every chance I had."
One college student wrote some practical, excellent advice for parents: "Attend all that you can, especially when your children are young and at their most vulnerable. As the activities increase, still try to be there, but if you have an unavoidable conflict, explain it to your child - he or she will understand, especially if you've already built a base of support over the years."
Children can actually learn something valuable from sharing you with other activities -unselfishness. When our oldest daughter was in ninth grade, I had to travel on business to my hometown, and the work happened to coincide with the weekend my high school class was having its 25th reunion there. I pondered whether I would dare stay for the reunion - it would mean I would miss my daughter's first homecoming parade in the marching band. I asked her advice. I remember her quick response: "If I had a chance to go back and see all my friends from high school, I would want to; I want you to go."
This past fall, the opportunity arose for me to drive my parents to Florida for the winter. I missed a special fall concert at school for my 11th grader and I explained to her that I had responsibilities to my parents, too. Her willingness to "let me go" was a real gift to my parents, as well. So, they learn things from our presence with them-but also occasionally (for me, very occasionally) by our absences.
If you want to add your comment, go to <http://www.thirdway.com/aw/conversation>.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 885 words; end material = 105 words
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