Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"No" Protects My Family

Apparently I did something very strange today. Strange, at least, by many family's standards if the looks of disbelief that I got from several other mothers around me were any indication. But really, I know that I am different in this regard because I get these looks with some frequency, from strangers and friends alike.

So what did I do? I turned down a free yoga class for my kids. Yes, it was completely free, and yet I said that I didn't want it. Yes, it was a terribly trendy yoga class offered by a certified instructor that would probably have been lots of fun, but I chose to politely decline. I know- strange.

You see while waiting for my kids to finish their lessons today, and chatting with other moms while I waited, the program director at the Y approached us with a small perdicament. It turned out that the yoga class in question was new, with a new instructor, and enrollment hadn't been great. She was hoping to encourage other families to give it a try, and so was offering the open spots- for free- to any family that wanted them in hopes that word of mouth would encourage better enrollment rates in the next session.

Literally all the other moms jumped at the chance immediately. One was going to pick up her daughter early from daycare to make it work, and another was going to pick her child up from an after school program and drive from four towns away to make sure that her child could attend. When the director turned to me, the last of the bunch, she was already writing my children's names down on the list when I politley told her that we'd have to pass. "But why?" She wanted to know, polite but incredulous. I simply told her that we didn't come to town on the day the class was offered (which is true). But there is much more to my reasoning than a simple schedule conflict.

The truth is, I don't want my kids enrolled in another activity. I don't want to have another place to go, another bag to pack, another dinner on the run. Even for an awesome activity like kids yoga. I want to preserve the sanctity of their childhoods by providing- and protecting when necessary- opportunities for my children to play freely, unhindered by structured learning. Don't get me wrong here- I think they should learn, and I am grateful for the chance to enroll them in the lessons they take. But it's my fundamental belief that there can be too much of a good thing, and frankly, three lessons per week for my family is too much of a good thing.

What my kids need most in their young years is simple play, with plenty of time for imagination, creativity, and wonder. Those things slip so quickly through our fingers when we begin to rush the schedule, and we all, parents included, loose touch with the reasons why we wanted to participate in the lessons in the first place. We get moody. We get short with one another. We begin to overlook the fact that we are trying to raise people, not ballerinas, basketball stars or yogis.

So I said no, unpopular though that choice may be. And I will continue to say no to all kinds of great opportunities and events. In these years when my children are young, what could be more important than giving them the gift of time spent devoted to an interest, unpressed and unstructured? So next Thursday, when lots of other moms are taking their kids to yoga, my family and I will be sitting down at the table to eat, reading stories and having baths, and savoring the rhythm of family life.

Strange? Maybe, maybe not.


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