by Denise Berger
Remember this scene in the all-time classic movie, When Harry Met Sally? Harry (Billy Crystal) metaphorically uses a dog to explain an error in their ways and Sally (Meg Ryan) promptly and indignantly responds with, "Who is the dog, Harry? I am? Am I the dog??" Well, I feel like Sally these days... only, not necessarily with a significant other, but with my kids!!! As they get older (nine and seven years old), they exert such strong opinions... and usually against something that I have done for their well-being!!! Why? We moms try so hard to give our elementary school kids exposure to many different activities, in hopes that a) something sticks, about which they can write a college application essay, to say the least, and/or b) we give them something to do that does not involve some kind of screen and keeps them occupied between the hours that they get out of school and we get home from work - tennis, golf, karate, gymnastics, dance, music, soccer, basketball, baseball, religious school, art, tutoring, after-school care, whatever, pick your poison, your vice, their passion?? We all do it. We do. And yet, where is the appreciation, the gratitude, the thanks for a job well done? Instead, I feel like I get kicked. And moms, worse yet, just today I got blamed for signing my kids up for something that my husband insisted they do! Why am I the punching bag? Why am I the dog??
My friend, who has a three year old and one year old, is overwhelmed by the preschool and kindergarten applications that already beseech her. Why is she putting herself through all of this craziness? So her kids can receive a good education and reach their full potentials during their lifetimes. There are many days when I feel overwhelmed by the paperwork and logistics and the oversight and the coaching and the whining and the organization of it all. Sure, we have our own motives for signing up our children for “fun” activities, but shouldn’t our kids be appreciative of the opportunities that we offer to them?
Well, maybe that is expecting too much. However, when your child would much rather play video games on the couch for two hours after school each day, pushing for alternative activities might not be a bad thing. The Child Trends Data Bank reveals the following:
“The time children spend after school influences their development. Through after-school activities, children can develop social skills, improve their academic performance, and establish strong relationships with caring adults. Participation in club activities during middle childhood is linked to higher academic performance and self-esteem. Participation in sports is linked to higher social competence and contributes to better health and lower likelihood of obesity. After-school programs may be especially beneficial for low-income children and children with limited English proficiency. Some research shows that children of low-income families who attend after-school programs are less likely to exhibit antisocial and problem behaviors. Children who regularly attend high-quality after-school programs are more likely to be engaged in school and attentive in class. They are also less likely to skip school and start drinking alcohol. Older children who consistently participate in after-school activities are more likely to attend college, vote, and volunteer later in life.“
I believe it is important for us to understand what is motivating us as parents to sign up our children for the activities which we choose. Sometimes it is because our child has a proclivity in a certain area. Other times, it is simply, “because we said so.” All I can add is: be prepared to have a thick skin!!! The gratitude will not come for a long while. You ARE the dog.