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Give your kids a break

My 9-year-old decided he didn’t want to ski last weekend and, though I could hear the collective gasp of parents throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, I said OK. He stayed home with me, and I nursed my guilt that we weren’t nurturing his potential to become a world class athlete. While my friends’ kids were hiking the Bowl, playing hockey and following it all up with a birthday party or two, my son and I did, well, absolutely nothing. And something extraordinarily ordinary happened.As I folded laundry, my son decided he would write a book. Mmm, I thought. Guess he wouldn’t be doing that while he skied. Later, while I swept and mopped the floors he played piano, coming up with approximately five different ways to play the same song. Afterwards, he took a bow and made himself a chocolate shake. He made us lunch, taking care to slice the sandwiches on the diagonal and place the chips in the middle and a Girl Scout cookie to the side. He cleaned his room and organized his rocks and helped pick up trash when we walked outside. He freshened up the guinea pig cage and read Ripley’s Believe It or Not!I went about my day; he went about his. I didn’t plan or organize a single activity for my 9-year-old, and it felt great. No scavenger hunt, no chess game, no swimming or sledding or science. Yet, he seemed content all day. Relaxed. Happy.Later, when his brother and sister returned from their day on the slopes, Ben didn’t have much to report, really. But, after all, I guess that was the point.We have become a generation of parents who equate quality time with busyness, and academic aptitude with doing more.It’s not enough for them to participate in sports, they need to be elite athletes. It’s not enough to be good in math, they need a tutor to keep them challenged. Even an unplanned Saturday suddenly becomes chock full as we parents plan and execute every minute of our kids’ day. We worry that if our kids don’t participate in every activity they won’t be able to compete. Well, something dawned on me last weekend: What are we competing for?Sometimes I have to remind myself that when my parents went through their “no TV” stage, my sister and I entertained ourselves for hours on end with a balloon. We both wound up with college degrees. Granted, we live in a different world today, driven by technology. But as parents we owe it to our kids to give them a break. Offer them a chance to see what their own little minds will come up with when faced with a single day to do much of nothing. And we have to start young, so they can practice.Despite my Saturday epiphany, a few days later, I was struck by a photo of a mother-to-be with headphones strapped on her belly, playing classical music to her fetus. I was immediately ashamed. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I reprimanded myself, forgetting all about my momentary commitment to back off. Think how much further ahead my kids could be right now! I lamented my own ignorance, knowing full well my kids had listened to way too much Lyle Lovett in utero, until a wise woman pointed something out to me: Einstein’s mother never piped Mozart into her womb. And he turned out OK. Charla Belinski teaches the parenting course Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and writes from her home in Snowmass Village. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent. E-mail Charla at Belinskis@comcast.netCharla Belinski teaches the parenting course Redirecting Children’s Behavior, and writes from her home in Snowmass Village. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent. E-mail Charla at Belinskis@comcast.net


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