I watched an episode of ‘Wife Swap’ last night… something that I wouldn’t dare to admit on a normal day. However it was a fairly interesting episode where there was one family that believed that good looks and confidence equalled money and power, while the other family had told their children that if being average is your best, then average is who you are.
The ‘good looking family’ (and really, they weren’t that good looking) had it all… the mother was the head of a modelling agency and was essentially the bread winner. The two daughters (aged 10 and 7) wore designer clothes and accessories, one was heading a girl band, they took piano lessons, dance lessons, gymnastics, singing lessons, had a deportment tutor, did everything they could to be stars. They had 2 housekeepers and their father was mad on sports – wake boarding, hockey, basketball and sometimes went to work as a property developer for his wife’s father. He took no responsibility for the children, often getting the girls to school late. The girls would eat dinner at around 9.30-10pm at night after all their activities, going to bed around midnight because they had so much going on.
The other family were red necks from Wisconsin. There were 6 children (but I think only five living at home). They loved their family and did everything together. There were five sons and a daughter and the level of testosterone was overwhelming. They went hunting, and were constantly roughing each other up. The boys (in their late teens to early 20s) were used to their mother doing all the housework, while they sat on their bottoms watching TV. The father loved spending time with his children and family. There was a lot of love in this home because they did spend quality time together.
I guess these two families were extremes of each other – one overloaded their young children for future hopes that they will be stars, where the other family were complacent, but happy to enjoy their family time. So where is the balance?
For me, it’s not how much they do, it’s the quality of what they do. For me, who has boys, but I also think it’s important for girls, I believe team sports are a must. It gives them opportunities to learn important life skills in trust, camaraderie, being competitive, leadership, winning, losing and working as a team. They quickly learn the fact that there is no ‘I’ in team. My sons have played hockey, soccer, basketball and surf life saving over the years and they always seem happiest when they can share a victory with their mates; but when they have done things like swimming or tennis, it’s almost a chore to get them there. I see some families at school who seem to have something on every day for this children, sometimes stacking an afternoon with 2-3 activities after school. There’s no time for homework, no time for being a kid and no time for family time.
Then there is the argument that if you don’t get your children involved in activities, they get bored easily and end up causing mischief – getting on the wrong side of the law, hanging out with the wrong kids, being easily led by their peers, and possibly getting involved with drugs and alcohol too early in life. They do this, because their parents don’t take an interest in them and they want some attention, so instead of saying ‘Hey Mum, I’d really like to join the local baseball club’ (which they probably have at some point, but Mum isn’t listening), they do law-defying things to get their parents attention.
So there must be a balance – a chance for a child to be a kid, to be part of a team, do something that makes them stand out, to feel wanted, be dedicated to their homework and schooling and enjoy family time. It’s hard to get the right mix, and I can say I’m no expert at it, but we have to think what’s best for our kids – not what’s best for us.