When I was three years old, I was bitten by the gymnastics bug after watching Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10 in the 1984 summer Olympics. I started flipping off the couch and during somersaults on my bed. My parents thought their only choice was to put me into gymnastics or a full body cast.
When I was five, I was the first little girl in my class to do a backflip without a spotter. I was invited to join the “team” girls the next day. The invitation meant instead of one hour once a week in the gym, I’d spend fifteen.
My mother said no. She wanted me to have a childhood. To be able to go to birthday parties and pursue other interests outside of gymnastics.
Eventually, I switched from gymnastics to power tumbling and trampoline. The move was a good one for me, it allowed me to be on the team without having to put tons of hours in the gym. Instead of spending fifteen hours a week there, I spent about seven. It gave me the chance to be a girl scout, to try out the flute, to be a cheerleader in junior high and high school, and to be involved in my youth group at church.
To this day, I still love gymnastics. But I am so thankful my mother said no to the invitation to team and found a happy medium instead.
As my children get older, I’m fighting to protect their childhood, just like my mother did mine. If the day comes where either Lola or Malone want to be involved in a sport as a high level athlete, we’ll have to strongly weigh the pros and the cons- not just for them, but for our entire family unit.
We will have to cross that bridge when we get there, but for now here are 10 easy things we’re doing to cultivate a simple childhood.
1. We’re limiting screen time and toys that play for our kids. We’d rather them play with their toys.
2. We are intentional about our schedule. Currently, we have a one activity at a time (per kid) rule. Malone is in soccer this fall and then wants to start gymnastics again this winter.
3. We are intentional with our screen time as parents. When we are with our kids, we work really hard to be present (easier said than done sometimes).
4. We eat breakfast and dinner together as often as we can.
6. We have a space dedicated in our home for the creative messy. Art supplies are always out and available. (This one drives my clutter hating self batty, but it is so rewarding to see Malone work on his art projects).
[Tweet “Cultivate a simple childhood by allowing space for creative mess.”]
7. We fight for our children’s character instead of fighting with them. And what I mean by that is that we work really hard to not engage in power struggles with our kids. Instead, we focus more on making good choices.
8. We travel with our children as frequently as budget and time allows. Sometimes, it is just a quick day trip. Other times, it is a 1000 mile road trip across country to see their grandparents.
9. We follow our child’s interests and pursue further educational opportunities in those areas. Right now one of Malone’s favorite things to do is to classify, sort, count, and graph his candy stash. He doesn’t think he’s learning because he’s having so much fun.
10. We are free and generous with our love and positive affirmations. Our kids will never have to wonder where they stand with us because we make sure to tell them frequently how much they are loved.
This post was inspired by Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, a novel where former Olympic hopeful Dan destroys his swimming career and his attempt at redemption after prison. Join From Left to Write on September 30th as we discuss Barracuda. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.