As parents, I believe it's our job to expose our kids to what's out there. Put your kids in sports and activities. If they don't know what's out there, how will they know what they enjoy? Fortunately, Monster has always been our logical one. "If you don't like it, we just have to finish out the session and then we don't have to do it again." That's always been our philosophy. Monster did t-ball and coach pitch until he decided he didn't want to do it anymore. He did soccer until he decided he didn't want to do it. Swimming I pushed but only because I believe my kids need to be able to swim well enough to save their lives. Once Monster got past that point and no longer wanted to do lessons, we stopped. He did art class until he was no longer interested. Was I a little sad when he no longer wanted to do these things? Most definitely. My son was not going to be the baseball star we dreamed he'd be. That's not who he is though. He hasn't played baseball on a team for 2 years. This summer, he decided that he wants to try it again next year because he really enjoys baseball. It was all in his own time. He also wants to play soccer again. Since he is super logical about things, we explained soccer would interfere with karate gymnastics and that's fine, but he had to choose. He chose karate. He looked at it and decided he could play soccer with us anytime and didn't need to play on a team. He only wanted to play because he has fun with it. Being that I played soccer, this was a tough one for me. Of course I want my kids to be awesome soccer stars, but they need to follow their own paths, in their own time. Who knows, maybe next year, he'll choose soccer over gymnastics, and that will be fine, too. Once you take the joy out of something though, I think there's very little chance of going back. I feel that if we would have forced Monster to keep playing baseball or soccer, he wouldn't enjoy them now because he wasn't ready. Actually, I know that's true. I know that's true because that's what happened to art. He took 3 rounds of art class when he was younger. By the time he did round 3, he couldn't stand it, but he needed fine motor work, so I pushed it. Not only was his behavior off in class, but he no longer wanted to draw or color at home. That's when I decided it wasn't worth it. So last summer, when he asked me to do art class again, I was hesitant, but let him. He loved it. Taking a break from the stress of it gave him time to start to love art again. (True, I also found an awesome fine motor tutor so I felt we could stop art class, so that really helped!) He loves to draw in his spare time again. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was probably a year before he picked up a crayon without being coaxed after forcing him to do art class. Once again this summer, he's taking art classes. His choice. In his time.
It's not just sports and activities that I try not to push my kids in. It's everything. Sunshine is very different from her brother. She wants to do everything! If she could be in every single activity out there, she'd be one happy kid. But, there are other areas of her life that I've had to learn not to push and just let her get there in her own time. Reading is the big one. By Sunshine's age, Monster was reading picture books on his own. Husband and I could no longer spell things out we didn't want him to know because he could figure out almost everything we spelled. We could always count on Monster wanting to read a book when we needed a little quiet time. From the moment Monster was born, we read to him. Even as a baby, he would sit and listen and look at the pictures. When Sunshine was born, we tried to do the same. She wanted nothing to do it with books. I remember when she was year old thinking, "will she ever sit and read with me?" After some time, she would finally sit and listen to a story. When she was about 2, I remember thinking, "will she ever just go get a book and 'read' it on her own?" Eventually, she did. At age 3, I remember thinking, "will she ever have any interest in knowing what the words int he book actually are?" It's been a journey, but now she does. In her time. Now, she wants to learn to read and spell words. She wants to sit with me for hours and read books. She'll sit with books and 'read' them to herself. It was just a matter of not pushing and letting her do it in her own time.
Our kids aren't meant to be who we want them to be. Our kids are meant to be who they are. We can guide them but ultimately the path has to be their own. I know way too many people who did things for years because it was what their parents wanted, but they were miserable doing it. I also know that a lot of people were the opposite. and their parents never gave them opportunities to do try things. I believe there can be a balance. i believe that we can help our kids find their paths, even if that means giving them the time and space to allow them to figure it out in their own time.