“Why do you make your daughter do so many extracurricular activities?”
I nearly choked on my tea. “Is it because you feel guilty for taking her out of school?” A woman asked me this at a kids’ birthday party when my daughter was 6.
Make my daughter do extra-curricular activities? She couldn’t have got it more wrong.
My daughter had gone to a school that ran dozens of extracurricular clubs. She signed up for as many as 5-year-olds were allowed. Out of school, she wanted to do rugby, football, judo, singing, dance and drama.
If I dragged my heels finding an activity she wanted to do, my daughter would google local classes and hand me the phone. “I really want to try it, Mummy. Pleeease?”
She loved every one of her activities. But she was becoming exhausted.
It’s not that our schedule was abnormal. Several of her friends had the same busy lives. The difference was that those kids didn’t throw themselves into everything with the same intensity as my daughter.
The result? I never got to see my sweet, fun-loving girl. All her family got was the grumpy, worn out child that was left at the end of each day.
“We can’t go on like this, sweetie.” I said. “What would you like to give up?”
Cordie looked at her brother, who’d been homeschooled for a term. “Maybe I could give up school?”
Passionate about everything
From martial arts to gymnastics, through art classes, scouts, climbing, wake-boarding and ice skating, my daughter’s problem has always been fitting in everything she wants to do.
Having an introverted brother with OEs has brought even more activities along the way: my daughter goes along to keep her brother company. Then a few weeks later he drops out (or is dropped), by which time Cordie’s an enthusiastic participant in her own right!
Multi-potential and extroverted, at 12 my daughter’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Do you have a child who wants to do everything, too?
If you do, you’ll know it brings many benefits – and a few challenges, too.
The benefits of being into everything
- I adore my daughter’s zest for life.
- I love how her life is enriched by the enormous range of people she mixes with.
- I’m in awe of her extraordinary physical fitness.
- I love that she’s learning leadership and team skills.
- And I adore that she’s spending her childhood discovering what she loves to do.
I guess I just never anticipated there’d be quite so many things she’d love to do!
The challenges of being into everything
When you have a child who wants to try – and excel at – everything, you have to:
- Help her manage her energy.
- Remind her she needs downtime: to cuddle pets, to read, to doodle.
- Encourage her to leave space for spontaneous pleasures.
- Be the (sometimes unwelcome) voice of reason, suggesting now and again that something has to give.
- Appreciate her drive for excellence, while letting her know that it’s okay to do some things just for fun.
- Remind her to make time to work towards her academic goals.
- Support her as she manages her relationships. Children with emotional OE crave depth in friendships, which may be difficult to satisfy when you only see friends and acquaintances once or twice a week.
- Balance siblings’ needs. Keep them happy if they have to go everywhere with you. Even when they’re old enough to stay home alone, you need enough time and energy to meet their needs.
- Manage your own energy. All that chauffering can be exhausting! If you’re an introvert, try listening to audiobooks in the car together. Maintaining your personal baseline is vital when you’re parenting kids with OEs.
Supporting our children’s unique needs
If my kids weren’t so very different from one another, I might worry that I’d done something wrong to create such extreme characters.
I might have wondered if I really was ‘forcing’ my daughter to do extracurricular activities. Or I might have worried that I wasn’t exposing my son to enough opportunities.
But with just 16 months between them and an identical upbringing, my kids’ choices are plainly their own.
So wherever your kids are on the extracurricular spectrum – trust that you’re not getting it wrong.
Our children each have their own paths to forge in this world. Our job is to love unconditionally, to support when needed, and to help each child flourish as the unique individual he or she was born to be.
Choosing Extracurricular Activities for Children with Overexcitabilities Finding extracurricular activities for an introverted child with intense OEs.
What’s it like being a tween with overexcitabilities? Video (and written) interview with my 12-year-old daughter in which, among other things, she talks about how much she loves her activities.
Homeschooling and Extracurricular Activities – How Much Is Too Much? A post from my homeschooling blog when my children were 8 and 9.
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Does your child want to do everything?
How do you help them find balance?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on the Laugh, Love, Learn Facebook page. 🙂
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