Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Remembering The Chicken Pox

A friends child recently came down with the chicken pox and it reminded me of our own families experience with this virus. It was actually the catalyst for the beginning of a major life style change.

When we realized that the kids had the chicken pox I began to cancel all of our activities. By the time everyone got it and was better we had not participated in any outside activities for over two weeks. What I remember from that time was feeling more relaxed than I could remember feeling in years. We sat on the couch cuddling together, we read together, we played board games, and even napped together. The itching and fever were all controlled with medications, oatmeal baths and lotions so that the children were not even that miserable. It was, over all a really great two weeks.

This prompted intense evaluations of our activities. What were the goals and values that as a family we were pursuing. Did the activities we were participating in meet these goals? What were the benefits of the activity and what were the losses. By the time we were done evaluating a lot of activities did not make the short list. They were all good activities in and of themselves but that saying about "to much of a good thing" was appropriate.

We made some pretty drastic decisions. Our middle daughter was heavily involved in a sport that required her to practice 15 hours a week. They were in the process of requiring a two hour a week dance class on top of the normal practices. She was to start competing in the fall and would be traveling two weekends a month. At age 8 she was already missing 2 evening meals a week and family activities on Saturdays. She had the same coach since she was three years old and we knew that it would be difficult and emotional for her to leave them. We met with the coach and asked the hard questions. Was our daughter good enough at this sport that the time and monetary investment were worth it and if she was did want to pursue it?. The coach replied that our daughter did not necessarily have "a natural talent that would take her to Olympics but that she worked harder than anyone else in the gym and that was why she was so good." We went shopping for another coach and another club. We wanted less practice time, less pressure, and the option for her to compete. Our goal was not the Olympics, it was to provide her with an activity that she could continue to enjoy. We found a club and a coach that we liked and made the move. It was hard on our daughter but she did adjust and today she enjoys her practices, loves to compete and hopes to be a coach herself someday.

My husband resigned from a volunteer position with the city. I resigned from several church activities and kept only one that I felt was within my area of giftedness. We limited the rest of the children to one on going activity and one seasonal activity like spring baseball. It took a while to implement these changes. We came up with some general guidelines for determining what activities we would participate in and we evaluate potential activities before deciding to participate. It requires constant vigilance. It is easy to say yes and much harder to say no. Often we find ourselves saying yes without thinking and regretting it later. I have learned to go to my husband and run my schedule by him. He often sees the down side of things that I do not see until I am already committed. I have had to learn to gracefully say, let me think about it. Its easier to say no when I have put some distance between myself and the activity.

Just because an activity has benefits does not mean that it is beneficial. For instance playing fall soccer has benefits that include a social activity and physical fitness. However, if it causes the family to be separated at meal times, unable to do regular family activities, and causes mom stress over fitting the practices and games into the schedule it is probably not worth it.