Do you remember in the years before you became a parent – and maybe even sometimes after – that you would declare all of the things you definitely would or would not do as a mom?
Well, I was never going to get worked up if my kid decided to quit an activity. If he wanted to quit – as long as he had fulfilled his commitment/finished the season/etc. – I was going to be fine. Then my kid decided to quit something, and I am struggling with his decision.
A few short weeks ago, I stood backstage arranging costumes on my son’s clothing rack, little ones in glittery costumes chattering excitedly, older dancers rushing past for quick changes and volunteers holding clipboards that organized dancers who would soon be taking the stage. It was the (mostly) organized chaos that comes with dress rehearsal and, I found myself feeling nostalgic over something my child was still doing, at least for another day or two. After four years, eight recitals, 12 competitions, countless hours and eleventy billion of my dollars, my little one decided to quit dance.
It’s something that’s baffled me, his dad and his dance teachers. He loves being on stage, he dances constantly and works on his stretching and flexibility regularly. He hasn’t had a negative experience that makes him want to quit, he just says he’s done. I think if I understood his decision, I would have moved on by now but his “why” escapes me.
I don’t think I am grieving any perceived lost opportunity for him to become the Next Big Thing, but I am grieving the community we have built around this activity. All kids need a place where they fit in with peers who support them, and I don’t want to see him give that up. Maybe my perception of the community he has built isn’t quite what I thought it was. And that’s okay. That’s why I respect his decision to hang up his jazz shoes.
Some tips on what to do if your kid decides to quit an activity:
- Recognize that your interests as a kid may not be your kid’s interests. You loved playing the tuba, but your kid would rather dribble a basketball? That’s okay. My dad became the biggest dance and cheer fan in the world, even though I am sure he would have been proud if one of us was an amazing softball player. We may want our kids to follow in our footsteps but finding their gifts is important and something we can all cheer about.
- Dig deeper. Maybe there was a negative experience that has less to do with the activity than it has to do with the situation at hand. Your child may need an advocate. You are their advocate.
- Try different things. It seems that year-round sports seasons are becoming the norm, but, if you can swing the expense and schedule, allow your child to try different things. Maybe they were excited about soccer when they started but have realized it’s just not for them. If you encourage them to try various activities, they have a better chance of finding their niche.
- Let them have down time. Even with one or two extracurricular activities on their plates, kids can get burned out. With an intense after-school schedule and with constantly increasing academic demands, kids may need time to just be kids when they have the opportunity. Let them ride their bikes, climb trees, make time for their studies and their friends. There are so many ways to keep our kids involved and to find their community of support.