Neither my husband or I are quitters. When we start something, we finish it; even if it nearly kills us. Perhaps it’s becasue we’re both so type A it’s laughable, but getting us to give up on anything is a challenge. We’ve tried to instill that same attribute in our children. When they start something, we expect them to finish it.
With that attitude in mind, I never understood how parents could let their kids quit activities. I assumed that once my children got involved in an activity, they would finish it, no matter what. So when my son came to me and asked if he could quit karate (after nearly two years), it was a hard thing for me. After a lot (and I do mean a lot) of thought, prayer, pro/con lists and tears, I finally told him I would support him in whatever decision he made. It was very humbling for me and now I understand why parents let their kids quit activities. Don’t get me wrong; I still feel it’s important to give things a fair try, and if something truly is important, it needs to be followed through to the end. But my son taught me a great lesson about what’s important.
Let’s start at the beginning. Much more is expected of children today than ever has been. Children used to learn to read in Kindergarten. Now if they don’t have basic reading and writing skills by kindergarten, they are considered behind. I don’t remember getting homework until 3rd or 4th grade and even then it was minimal. My first grader gets three pages of homework a night, plus reading homework.
Outside of school, kids are expected to participate in soccer, baseball, piano, dance, etc, etc, etc. It’s so much. I always thought if my kids didn’t participate in each activity, they’d be behind the other kids. So when my son started school, we decided he’d take piano and karate lessons. This worked through half-day Kindergarten, but things changed in first grade.
Beginning in first grade, he went to school at 7:30 a.m., came home at 3:30 p.m. and had half an hour of free time. Then at 4, we’d practice piano for half an hour, do homework for half an hour and then rush off to karate. Then we’d come home for a quick dinner and right to bed. This went on and on and on. I noticed my son was more irritable, didn’t have time to do the things he loved and most importantly, wasn’t happy.
A few months ago, he came to me and said, “Mom. I’m feeling stressed with all I have to do.” That broke my heart. I don’t think I knew what the word “stressed” meant when I was 7, let alone knew how it felt. So when he asked if he could quit an activity, I listened with an opened mind and heart. We talked about which activity he liked best and talked it through. We listed the pros and cons of quitting each activity and I left the decision to him. About three weeks later, he told me he wanted to quit karate. I swallowed my parenting pride and said yes.
Within days our entire family was happier, less stressed and had more time to do the things we love. Maybe my son will never be like Chuck Norris, but when he thinks of childhood, he’ll have memories of going to parks, playing games as a family, going for walks and doing the things that make him happy. And in the end, that’s my goal for my children: to be happy, good kids who love their lives. If that means we have to quit something now and then, so be it.