Stop I Want to Get Off!

There’s one thing that I look forward to more than anything about the long 6 week summer holiday and that’s the chance to STOP.  For 13 weeks it feels as though we are on a merry-go-round, one which gets increasingly faster as the weeks go by: early mornings, hurried breakfasts, tardy arrivals at school, tetchy walks home, rushed present-buying for the latest birthday party, turfing through the wash bin for uniform that will ‘pass’ as clean and all of this on less and less sleep.  
In amongst this chaotic whirlwind of a life, we will also be attending concerts, ‘watching weeks’ and various performances related to the umpteen extra-curricular activities that my children frequent.  Is it just me?  Please tell me it is not only me who leads this crazy life of ferrying children from one activity to the next with very little time to breath in between (that’s me, the taxi driver, who doesn’t get a chance to breath by the way, not them)?
Ever since my children were born, we’ve been attending some kind of ‘activity’ be it Jo Jingles, Tumble Tots or Baby Massage classes and it would seem that most people I come across, do the same. The other thing we have in common, is that we are all constantly moaning about it!  So why do we do this to ourselves and to our children? I’ve been pondering this question over the last few days and I have come up with various reasons, most of which have been the source of my motivation at one time or another:
  • because everyone else is doing it
  • to allay guilt
  • because we didn’t get these opportunities in our childhood
  • because our child has amazing persuasion techniques
  • to keep our children amused
  • because we always secretly hope we might have the next budding child star/Olympic sensation/premiership footballer on our hands
  • because we believe it promotes a well-rounded individual
Right now you’re probably thinking that I’m a push-over, that I allow my children to do whatever they like, no expense spared.  The truth is, we do have a (loose) system in place, one which goes something like this…. each child is allowed to do 4 paid-for activities every week: a sport; a fun activity of their choice; Guides or cubs; and a musical instrument.
Obviously our children are not all the same, one chooses not to do a sport or learn a musical instrument (we’ve been down that road and what ensued is certainly more than a blog post worth of material!). The other two are constantly nagging to do more but we’ve decided to draw the line at 4. Not just because of the cost involved (I can’t bring myself to share that piece of information!) but due to the time we spend doing them.  If you do the maths, our system already involves 12 different car journeys and I haven’t even mentioned the church groups and school orchestra that they attend – both are free and wholesome activities but still require a lift to and from. 
What’s on offer for our children these days is quite incredible…..synchronised swimming – really?!  How easy it would be to cave in to their pleas and allow more hobbies, but I know that we are pretty much at breaking point already. If they want to try something new, then something else has to go, it’s a simple as that. 
The OH and I had very different upbringings: as a child I  went to ballet, swimming, piano lessons, gymnastics and brownies…he did nothing.  Being one of 8 children and living in a rural community, these activities were not on offer. It’s taken him a long time to get his head around all of this busyness and frantic activity. Our own very fortunate children take pity on their daddy and feel sorry for their peers (the very few who don’t do any extra-curricular activities), viewing them as deprived.  I look at the parents with a certain envy – they had the guts to throw off the shackles of expectation and not bow to peer pressure….

What’s your view of extra-curricular activities for children?  Do you find them a chore or do you love to see them having fun?  Do you think that children are spoilt these days?  Are we pushing them too hard?

Just another 10 days folks…..and we’ll be free!
As always I’m linking this post up with The Monday Club over at The Voice of Sarah Miles and Jaime’s Magic Moment linky because it will be, just as soon as I can get through these 10 days!

40 Comments on Stop I Want to Get Off!

  1. Sonya Cisco
    July 8, 2013 at 11:49 am (4 years ago)

    I think e toddlers activities are for me as much as him, as there is only so much time I can spend in the house with him without going bonkers! The older two don’t do any! *gasps* My eldest has done various things over the years- danc, brownies, guides, swimming lessons, keyboards etc , but has outgrown them all now. The middle child had swimming lessons until he got his 50 metrs badg and then wanted to stop. He isn’t very sociable so he finds the idea of scouts etc terrifying, he is hoping to join the chess club at his new school in September tho!

    • Sonya Cisco
      July 8, 2013 at 11:50 am (4 years ago)

      Argh! Full of typos- am on my phone- apologies! :)

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm (4 years ago)

      When I think back to the baby/toddler years, my motivation was definitely sanity for me. I can see my youngest joining to chess club too – so cute!

  2. Louise Fairweather
    July 8, 2013 at 11:56 am (4 years ago)

    You beat me to this post :-) I have been too busy worrying whether or not we should continue gymnastics with big man to get it written! It is a fortune and the other 2 hate being there as much as I do! I think we have decided to end it but now I feel like a bad mum for not letting him carry on. We have at least changed to a cheaper swimming lesson. I think one or two classes is fine. I would like mine to learn an instrument when they are older but I’m not going to push them to. I also want to spend some time with my kids rather than spend my time taxi – ing them everywhere. May try to write a slightly more coherent post on it in the not too distant future! X

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm (4 years ago)

      Louise I have spent many an hour in the very same sweaty/smelly gymnastics hall that I’m sure you are referring too. I finally managed to persuade my daughter to give it up after 3 years and now she wants to go again to the pay-as-you-go freestyle gymnastics! At least now I can drop her off and go home for an hour. Good luck with your decision making, it’s a tough one!

  3. Sarah Wood
    July 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm (4 years ago)

    I had one of those moments yesterday when I could see my seven year old daughter for her true self, totally relaxed, committed and enjoying her much-practised for end of year ballet show. To see her grinning and enjoying the spotlight as well as doing a great job of her dance steps made all the mindless ferrying and waiting around worthwhile. Truly pride-making moment. My little boy on the other hand doesn’t want to do any classes or go anywhere other than to lego city via our living room floor. I enjoy seeing the two extremes, and they are both very tolerant of each other’s approach so far. I’m also lucky that it means only one set of ferrying around logistically two or even three would probably be beyond me! It’s like everything else, as in what suits the individual child, I like your idea of having the fixed framework of rules then allowing individual choice with in that.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm (4 years ago)

      I think when we see them doing something that they so clearly love, it makes it all the more worthwhile. My kids are all very different too and we need to make allowances for that. One of them is very musical so she plays two instruments whilst the other one is not at all interested, so doesn’t play any!

  4. joy
    July 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm (4 years ago)

    I was a lucky mum, my kids were happy to amuse themselves at home most of the time, they had friends round to play, swimming lessons at infant school, each had piano lessons for a couple of years and that was about it. They dont feel deprived!
    Joy xx

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m sure they don’t Joy, most kids are happy with whatever is offered to them. I know that not many people had lessons of any kind when we were growing up.

  5. Tas D
    July 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm (4 years ago)

    Blooming heck that sounds really hectic. That’s a fair bit of taxi driving! At the moment I love doing toddler thingsZ it feels like an extension of my childhood all over again because its fun and carefree and not focused on learning too much. I know there’ll come a time when I probably won’t enjoy it too much because of all the chauffeuring and then I’ll join the crew that believes its necessary to make them well rounded individuals but hectic all the same!

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:28 pm (4 years ago)

      LOL and that life won’t be far off Tas!

  6. SarahMummy
    July 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Your life is so like mine! It would be easy if we had one child doing four activities, and I don’t see four activities as an excessive amount. It’s just the fact that it has to be multiplied by three that makes it so hard! I will be glad when it’s over for the summer.
    I do it because I think it’s fair to them to have these opportunities. The cost does add up, but it’s not TOO much for most of the activities. They are good, wholesome activities which keep them fit and healthy or help with their general wellbeing and community spirit (Cubs and Scouts). Yes, there is a tiny part of me that thinks I have an amazing dancer and footballer on my hand, but I’m not willing to push them too hard, reject other things, let their school work slip to test that theory. They are good, that’s all they need to be. They don’t need to be the best.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:30 pm (4 years ago)

      The ones that are incredibly expensive – music lessons – I deem as a great skill and creative outlet. Every time I try to cut something out, I think of all of the reasons as to why not! It’s lovely to see your child excel at something isn’t it?

  7. Orli D
    July 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm (4 years ago)

    It sounds tiring as hell. I think I am fortunate to have the afternoon activities in the school, so no driving around, but I know it will come sooner than I would like.
    Four activities did sounds like a lot, but that was before I thought about mine, and yeah, it sounds exactly like what’s in store for me soon enough…
    Have a great activities-free summer!

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:31 pm (4 years ago)

      I think 4 sounds like a lot too, until I consider the reasons why we do them. If they were all after-school and free that would make life a whole lot easier 😉

  8. dragonsflypoppy
    July 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm (4 years ago)

    I think it is all about balance really. Like your husband I didn’t really do any clubs as such as we lived out in the sticks. I’d like for mine to be more involved in things than I was, but equally it’s really important they have their ‘down time’ with me. I can’t wait for the summer, I tell them I get so excited about it as I get to keep them all to myself. (Also can’t wait for 6 weeks of no school run/mad morning dash!!) xx

  9. Siobhan C
    July 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm (4 years ago)

    Great post, S. I share your feelings exactly, although i dont’ do quite as much ferrying around as you (crikey, no wonder you’re knackered!). For me its about them getting exercise/learning a sport they love (football/ballet), mixed with making local friends (Brownies/Beavers) as they go to school not in the same village, aswell as doing stuff that they don’t cover at school now (music and swimming has been squeezed out in most schools, though we’re lucky as our primary has great music and swimming comes in year 5 & 6 every week).
    Its also, I think, the sense that if they don’t do it now, their friends will be ahead of them when they do it when they’re older – that is a biggy, and a real pain, to be honest, as my friend with older kids in sec school who didn’t send her kids to anything has found that her daughter has struggled to keep up in dance or sport.
    But I loved your honesty about the fact that so many of us do it ‘because everyone else is’.
    I decided to cut the swimming lessons throughout the year and do a swimming crash course in the summer hols (although there’s wingeing about that already) which has been a great decision and freed up a whole afternnon each week. And we also ensure for my daughter that she has nothing on a Sat am as she desperately needs a day where she’s not got to be anywhere before midday!

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm (4 years ago)

      I’ve given up on swimming now too – they can all swim and that’s enough. I think my ferrying around seems a lot because there are 3 of them….I reality they don’t do any more than yours!

  10. Mama Macfennell
    July 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm (4 years ago)

    When I first read this I thought ‘Good grief – 4 activities a week that’s way too much !’ Then I counted up what my daughters do and realised *hides head in shame* that my youngest does at least 4 activities too (it’s amazing how many things are on offer). As we live in a very rural area there’s lots of ferrying about so I sympathise with you there – it certainly adds to a fraught week. When S started to do tennis lessons on a Sunday then we made it a whole family outing and take the Sunday papers and stop at our favourite coffee shop. We did stop piano lessons for the time being because I realised that she just wasn’t enjoying it at all but just carrying on because all her friends did piano too. I’m hoping she’ll come back to it later and it’s funny now she’s stopped lessons she does more practising than she ever did before!

  11. gina caro
    July 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm (4 years ago)

    We aren’t at the after school club/hobbies stage yet but I fear it is imminent. I have heard many horror stories from friends though, they seem to spend most of their lives driving from one thing to the next. Think I need to brace myself x

  12. afieldsomewhere
    July 8, 2013 at 9:14 pm (4 years ago)

    I think we need to allow our kids time to get ‘bored’ so they can use their imagination and create. Way to much is on a plate for the these days.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:32 pm (4 years ago)

      I totally agree and we tend to leave weekends and holidays free for this exact purpose. I wrote about this in a post last week! We do have 1-2 evenings free in the week for them to have friends round for tea etc :)

  13. Jaime Oliver
    July 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm (4 years ago)

    im with you bring on the holidays and less pressure, i certainly did more than 4 activities as a child and i would love nothing more than for beth to be more proactive about the activities she does .. #epicfail

    But heres to the holiday and some much needed free time!

    thanks for linking up with #magicmoments x

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:32 pm (4 years ago)

      The ‘free-time’ can’t come soon enough in this house!

  14. Sarah Miles
    July 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I think a lot of hobbies are suggested or pushed by parents who, in turn, are guilt trapped into thinking they must provide all these opportunities. That whole surge of baby groups/activities which are lovely – took my first child to everything…baby yoga, baby massage, monkey music, nct meet-ups etc etc. second child, not one. Still feel guilty about it. Has it made any difference? Is child 1 more bendy, relaxed, musical and sociable? No.

    All that said, my eldest does brownies and ballet, but the others I am just letting them be. For now.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:33 pm (4 years ago)

      I have to admit that I failed on taking my youngest to classes too, except for swimming, although I didn’t start that until he was around 4 (the others started as babies!). He hasn’t suffered in any way, in fact he is the strong swimmer of them all! I think we’re all mad!

  15. 3yearsandhome
    July 9, 2013 at 9:42 am (4 years ago)

    I’m not a particularly great believer in lots of arranged activities or classes. I’d be inclined to throw a couple in to the mix if my boys are interested but I’m a big kid at heart, and give me a garden, I’d be out there all day. I’m really conscious of not letting life become a whirlwind of places we have to go or things we have to do. Let’s see if I can stick to it as they get older and become more demanding.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm (4 years ago)

      I would have said that I was like you but once my kids starting bickering and arguing with one another….the clubs have been my saving grace at times!

  16. waggfoods
    July 9, 2013 at 8:53 am (4 years ago)

    Growing up typist was lucky enough to do lots of activities, swimming, horse riding, ballet, rainbows, brownies, guides, girls brigade, (not all at the same time, over my childhood years) but there were rules – nothing on a weekend as this was family time, and if she wasn’t well enough to go to school then she wasn’t well enough to do the fun activity that evening!

    She looks back positively on all these chances she was given to go outside her confort zone, meet people in new circumstances, learn new skills. And she plans if she has children to give them the exact same chances.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 9, 2013 at 7:34 pm (4 years ago)

      I think a lot of this is down to what we did as children and our own growing-up experience. I also have the rule: if you can’t go to school, you can’t go out later!

  17. Older Mum
    July 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm (4 years ago)

    As Little A gets older I would like to send her to some classes – dance/musical instrument – classes that speak to her strengths and allow her to develop her skills further. The first thing I need to do though, is get her back into swimming again – for me, such a necessary skill. If you’re children are really enjoying them, I say go for it! X

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm (4 years ago)

      Swimming was always a necessity for me – it’s such an important life skill. I do try to work out what plays to their strengths and have a reason for doing each activity. I just have too many children!

  18. Emily Foran
    July 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm (4 years ago)

    Yay – we’ve nearly made it!!
    I don’t have too many activities with the tots but the older two never stop and I start the year so well with everything in place, laid out and ironed each morning correct sports gear in labelled bags and by Oct half term I’m drying clothes with a hairdryer and hoping E’s not gone to football with Madam’s ballet shoes.
    Can’t imagine how I’ll get it done once all 4 are in school!? xx

    • Suzanne Whitton
      July 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm (4 years ago)

      Well with 4 I’d probably have had a nervous breakdown Emily, so well done ou!

  19. Wendy {My Snakes and Ladders}
    July 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm (4 years ago)

    Even though I grew up in a town my brother and I rarely took part in any groups. I can only remember us both going to a Youth Club once a week for a few months and I also joined the Girl Guides, but apart from that, we didn’t do anything else. My son is now 8 and he is an only child and I do feel guilty at times that I don’t do any clubs with him – until recently. He now goes to a gym once a week (recommended by a friend whose son and daughter go). Tonight should have been his third week… and he informs me that he doesn’t want to go because it is “boring” !!! As it happened, I had a migraine so I caved and said he could miss it just this week. I honestly thought he would enjoy it as he rarely has anyone else to play with and he is full of energy!! So, now I wonder if I should insist he carrys on to improve his social skills AND make him realise what “commitement” is, or let him have his way and give it up!!

  20. sarah
    July 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm (4 years ago)

    i agree with you, its crazy. Today we had all 4 (including the 4yr old) with something after school. They do enjoy it tho. We dont do loads by comparison and the jo jingles type thing have well died out with my toddlers..i feel like ive been there and done that and im not prepared to stay there for any longer!! lol

  21. Giddyauntlola
    July 12, 2013 at 9:00 am (4 years ago)

    It is crazy and I have never ever signed up for all the frantic activities for any of my 5 kids. I always felt like it was almost a competition between parents as to how many things their children could do. Mine do the things they really really want to, and I don’t push anything else on them. My older children have explored the things they wanted to and continue to explore new hobbies as even I do. Some children I see at school are shattered because of all the jolly activities they take part in after/before school.

  22. Kerrie McGiveron
    July 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm (4 years ago)

    Well said. Can’t wait for the summer holidays! Popping over from MBPW – great blog post :)

  23. Mummygadgetgeek
    July 16, 2013 at 9:05 am (4 years ago)

    Oh my word! That’s a lot of activities!

    My two are still a lot younger, and we only do two paid activities a week (Tumble Tots and swimming). We chose those because not only are they something a bit different that we couldn’t do at home, but also they really help with agility, balance and co-ordination which is something that my family really struggle with! I also think it’s really helped build confidence as they’re interacting with different people and forming relationships with other adult caregivers too.

    The Wee Man has started asking to learn guitar, and he starts school in September where I know they have various different clubs on offer – so I’m sure things will get busier!

    Personally I think activities are a good thing – but its helpful if they’re doing the same thing, at the same time!

    thanks for the thought provoking post! Hope you enjoy the holidays x

  24. Iota
    July 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm (4 years ago)

    To be honest, especially when the kids were pre-schoolers, I found the activities were as much for me as for them. I found a day with no fixed point, a long one. I needed something in the diary to get out of the house for. And OTHER ADULTS to talk to!

    As they’ve got older, I’ve found the activities less appealing, as they all have to be crammed manically into the last bit of the day, after school. Just when everyone is tired, and dinner needs to be cooked and eaten.


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