My husband and I have lots in common—goals in life, political leanings, which way to hang the toilet paper. But in one very significant area we are polar opposites. He is classic Type A, never resting. I am a classic Type B (or is it C or D?), relaxing and enjoying the moment. I’ve never met a sofa and book I didn’t want to sink into for a few hours.
Before kids, we complemented each other. Now, however, with school-aged children, we’re finding ourselves in philosophical battle zones, driven (mostly) by our personalities.
He wants our kids to be always active. Sign ’em up for sports, sign ’em up for Cub Scouts and Brownies. And how about some cooking classes to boot? I, being in favor of “unstructured” time, tend to limit the kids’ schedule of commitments. Severely limit.
The kids seem to favor my approach to free time, till they get bored, that is. Last summer, they were “so booorrreed” one afternoon that I finally looked at them with pity and said that their boredom showed a disappointing lack of imagination. So they got a piece of foam board and created a sword and shield. Then they proceeded to decorate the shield with the words “bored,” “boredom,” and “boring” all over it. They were trying to one-up me, but it was they who ended up having fun battling boredom.
For years I’ve stuck to my guns about unstructured time for the kids. But now I’m thinking that my line in the sand is back too far. I might need to meet my husband half way. Yes, unstructured time is critically important to creative thinking and problem solving. But I recently read a 2006 study from Yale (I was a few years late getting to it, what with my lack of sense of urgency and all) that showed children engaged in an average of five hours a week of extracurricular activities had better academic performance, more functional family relationships, and less substance abuse than those who had nothing scheduled. Chalk one up for my husband.
So, I’m going to stop having freak-outs about signing my kids up for stuff. I’ll let them go at their own pace, mostly. Assuming their pace isn’t a stand-still, in which case I’ll urge them to choose something, anything.