Before I had kids, or maybe shortly after I had my first, I told myself that my kids would choose one activity to participate in at a time. I was determined that we would not be one of those ridiculous, overcommitted families that has no time for dinner and is constantly referring to their calendars to keep their lives in order. As the kids got a little older, I didn’t stick to the “one activity” rule but changed it to…well, we will take all these things now so they can see what they like, and then in high school each child will pick their favorite thing. The oldest is starting high school, she is not choosing her favorite thing, and we are the epitome of an overcommitted family.
The difficulty sometimes lies in the fact that their favorite thing is NOT my favorite thing, or my husband’s favorite thing. Because of this we (they) end up enrolled in all of our favorite things.
We are currently enrolled in twelve dance classes between four children. This means two recitals and about fourteen costumes. I am not going to tell you how much I spend on costumes. You will assume I am very wealthy (I am not, just broke all the time) or crazy (I am). Not only are we enrolled in all these classes, but it will get worse next year.
My oldest is going to be on the competitive dance team. This is something that I said, “NO” to for many years. Actually, what I said was, “Hell No!” And apparently, “Hell No!” translates into…”yeah, OK, go for it.” So next year she will do competitive dance and I will, in turn, be a competitive mom. I am picturing Toddlers and Tiaras, although I am told it is not that bad. I have a good friend embarking on this journey with me. She talks about bringing a novel to read, and ducking out to do some shopping at the competitions. Look, I have seen those competitive moms in action (while I am drinking a latte at recital time) they are NOT reading and shopping. They are filling balloons, hopping out of their seats to help with costume changes, and hauling props into the studio. I am trying to look at it as the exercise program for myself that I never have time for.
My second and third children had decided to quit dance. One to do year round swim (because we have that kind of free time) and the other to concentrate on piano and voice lessons (in case she would like to be Miss California some day). This was a great decision I thought. We were “choosing” things and slowing down. Well, we were until the final recital that left both children a mess in different ways. One cried hysterically for three hours after the recital telling me it was because she was “happy” to be moving on from dance. The second just found me alone and said quietly, “You know how I love my dance teacher. I can’t leave her.” And, with that, we were all back in.
Dance isn’t our only vice. There is swimming, choir, basketball, church youth group, and probably a few other things I am forgetting. I am moments away from being the crazy mom on Wife Swap who rants to the cameras about her schedule, and then does a crazy cry because someone has thrown said schedule away. A good friend emailed me the other day and asked a simple question, “Is there ever a time when your kids do not have something they HAVE to do?” I thought long and hard and then replied, “Yes, the week between Christmas and New Year’s.” And, while I would like to say I am exaggerating, I’m not.
I’m not sure how we got here. For the record, my husband hates all the dancing. I am sure it has something to do with the slightly crushed dreams of a man who did not get sons and football. Or it could be that he is right, and it is all way too much and unnecessary. What am I really preparing them for? A stint on Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team? A chance to audition for America’s Got Talent? Vegas showgirl? Backup dancers for MTV videos? The whole thing is a total disconnect from my personality. I am mostly hoping to make it through the competitive dance season without the other competitive moms not hating me. It is OK if they dislike me a little, but I am going to try and avoid full-on contempt.
My thought process is that if I keep them “busy and active” (a positive spin on “overcommitted and exhausted”), there will be no time for any vices like drugs, alcohol, or sex when they are teenagers. The other day I told a friend, “I just want to keep them busy enough to avoid any stints in rehab.” She replied, “Them or you?”