It’s summer. Maybe not officially, according to the calendar, but according to the mercury and the thunderstorms and the beautiful trees I can see out my windows, my favorite season of the year in Richmond is upon us.
And this year, my monkeys and I are taking a break.
Since my oldest was five (which is essentially the little ones’ entire lives) she has been a competitive diver. It’s meant Sunday night practices through the school years, and then early morning practices four days a week and meets once a week for half the summer.
This year, when it came time to sign up for summer diving, she said she didn’t want to do it.
“Okay,” I said.
“Make her do it,” hubby said.
“Easy for you to say,” I said. “You don’t have to drag her out of bed every morning for practice she doesn’t want to go to.”
“She’s always done it,” he said. “Diving is her thing. She’s good at it.”
All true. She has a wall full of ribbons and medals to prove it. After careful consideration, fellow mommy, here’s what I decided: so what?
If she’s not doing it because it’s fun, what’s the point? She is good at it. But we don’t have the time, money, or energy to put into diving what it would take to make her an Olympic champion or get her a college scholarship. I have confidence that my oldest daughter (and the other monkeys, too, of course, but they’re still little. She’s becoming a young woman, whether I like it or not) is going to do amazing things.
She does, too. And she’s a responsible kid and a people-pleaser, so when hubs objected to her “I don’t want to,” she said “maybe I should.”
Here’s what I told her:
“Sweet girl, I love to watch you dive. I love the confidence in your step as you approach. I love seeing you nail something you’ve worked hard on and the smile on your face when you come up knowing you did it. But ‘should’ you? No. You’re good at diving, and it’s great exercise if you enjoy it. If you’re not feeling it this season, you’ll be plenty active in other things. You are going to grow up to do wonderful things. But being a professional diver (if there’s even such a thing) is not one of them. You’re going to help people and discover things with this.” I tapped her forehead. “It’s what’s in there that makes you so amazing. And if you want to take this summer off, take it.”
She smiled so big and hugged me, and I knew I made the right call.
In the following weeks, I got funny looks from a few other moms who asked me if she was diving this year.
“Nope,” I said. “She doesn’t want to.”
“What is she doing instead?” they all asked, eyebrows up.
Here’s what I told them:
“She’s going to be a kid. She’s going to have a childhood summer she’ll never forget. One where she sleeps in and eats cereal at noon in her PJs, or gets up at dawn to watch the sunrise and go for a run with her dad. She’s going to play at the pool, dive because it’s fun, eat snow cones, and hang out with her friends. She’s going to read and explore and ride her bike. And she’s going to love every minute of it.”
I think, fellow mommy, that so many of us get caught up in the “I must have activities for the kids” mania, that we forget to let them be kids. Heaven knows I’ve done it.
But not this summer. This summer, the monkeys are going to have a simple, unscheduled childhood summer. We’re going to play, and read, and write, and take spur-of-the-moment daytrips. We’re going to the beach. We’re going to sing silly songs and make up stories.
Do I know there’s value in activities for kids? Absolutely! Teamwork, cooperation, responsibility, work ethic, and fun are all things my littles have gotten from sports and playgroups. But sometimes, I think, they just need a break.
Hubs has to work, and I have a book due in October, but lucky for us (so, so lucky), I’m an author and have the flexibility to write while they sleep or play in the pool, and he has a great job where he’s earned a boatload of vacation time.
I always look forward to summer in Virginia. But this year, I’m especially excited to see what adventures childhood will bring my little ones, and I’m feeling very blessed to be a part of it.
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