This is the latest in a recurring series. Find all of them here.
“I hate dance class! Write a big ‘X’ so I don’t have to go anymore!”
Rogue Two is in dance class as I write this. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s the only boy in the class, and the only one not wearing “dance” clothes. He’s currently rocking red pants, a Mickey Mouse shirt, ballet shoes, and his crazy curly hair.
“I love dancing. We dance at school. I love dance class.”
He has a love/hate relationship with dancing. He asked us to start dance classes, though none of us really knew what to expect when he started. He’s learning ballet, tap, and “acro” (some basic tumbling). There is so far very little freestyle dancing, which is his speciality.
“I told my teacher at school I was tired and wanted to go home.”
The class starts at 5:30pm and lasts an hour. The days he goes he is often at pre-school before 7am, because my wife and I have to be at work early or drop off Rogue One early that day. So he leaves the house before 7am and arrives home at 6:45pm. It’s a long day for a 4-year old.
“I’m going to do two more classes.”
For the past four weeks he’s said he wants to do two more classes. We signed him up for three months of classes, which means he’s close to having only two more left. The class goes through the springtime ad ends with a recital, but we are not planning on having him continue, as we think he needs a little break.
How Much Is Too Much?
The amount of activities and free time are a couple of the constant debates modern parents face, including us. I don’t know if my parents discussed this amongst themselves — I had plenty of non-school activities, but as a child I don’t recall feeling like I didn’t have free time.
How much of that was the perception of a child, who just didn’t pay attention to time, and how much was because I really did have more free time?
I probably did have a later bedtime than my own kids — I think. South Asian families are generally a little less strict about bedtime, and we didn’t have firm “lights out” times in our house.
Every so often in the ER I run into a parent who was driving somewhere with their kid at 2am before they ended up in the ER in a car accident. I’m usually not sure why they were out with their child that late, but that’s extreme, even by brown people standards.
Rogue One (8 years old) has an 8-9pm bedtime depending on the day of the week, and wakes up 6:30-8am depending on what is going on the next day. He spends a few days a week in afterschool care, and a couple days rides the bus home. He has a variety of “activities” that occupy his time. The current list:
- Spanish club (1x/week right before school)
- Chess club (1x/week right before school, 1x/week right after school — this one to teach advanced stuff)
- Swim class (1x/week)
- Quran lesson (2x/week)
- Cub scouts (2-4x/month depending on if he has extra activities) — usually in the evenings, but also on weekends
That’s… a lot? Way too much? Just right? Not enough? What, no instrument and horseback riding lessons?
The Benefits of Activities
We have tried to keep Rogue One in an organized sport most (not all) of the year. There are numerous benefits to physical activity, and we also believe there are benefits to receiving coaching and being part of a team. He receives a reasonable amount of physical activity at school (compared to many public schools), but not as much as a kid needs. It’s also not a substitute for organized sports.
We don’t particularly care what sport he does at this age as long as he’s working hard and enjoying it. So he’s rotating between baseball, soccer, martial arts, swimming, etc., and wrestling (with Rogue Two).
What about the rest?
Cub Scouts — by virtue of my wife and his family, he’s half country boy. He loves being in the woods, learning to fire BB guns, and whittling with a Swiss Army Knife. It’s great for me to participate in as well, because I am the opposite of a country boy, despite loving country music.
Swimming — everyone has to be able to swim enough not to drown. I’m a peds ER doctor and my wife spent years working in the pediatric ICU — we’ve unfortunately seen many children die of injuries from drowning. So learning to swim and becoming competent at it is non-negotiable. Also, doing doggy paddle as an adult just looks bad.
Chess — he wanted to do it and is enjoying it. He did his first tournament last spring (only a couple months after starting) and did well. Yesterday I played him for the first time (with a turn clock going no less). I was impressed with his skill, but it didn’t prevent me from beating him and dancing around the room. I have a marble chess set from Pakistan in my basement I would love to display and use, but Rogue Two and Three would destroy it so fast there’s no point. I also can’t wait until we bust out the Star Trek 3D chess set my older brother and I used to play — yes, I’m part-nerd.
Quran lessons — a tenet of Islam is being able to learn to read enough Arabic to be able to read passages from the Quran. This is purely reading — he’s not learning the vocab, just recognition of letters/words to be able to read it. It may seem very odd to be able to read something without having any idea what it says as you read it, but this is similar to what many Muslims who are raised in non-Arabic speaking countries do. English translations are easy to come by.
Spanish — he spent two years in a language immersion school where 90%+ of the curriculum was taught in Spanish. We moved schools (for a few reasons) and this was the only way not to lose all of it, as no one else in the family speaks Spanish. When he left the school he was reading books in Spanish as well as he did in English.
None of his activities are critical to his aspiration to become a professional YouTuber, however we want activity/sports/movement to be integral to his way of life even if he makes his money staring at a screen.
Does He Get A Say?
Rogue One has had a say in most (not all) of them. He did not “choose” to do Quran lessons, and he’d probably drop it if we let him, but we aren’t letting him. Once he finishes reading the Quran, he’ll stop.
He wanted to do chess — he’s part nerd, after all — but we’re going to drop his before school chess club so he can sleep in a little longer, something he specifically asked us to do.
He fell in love with Cub Scouts immediately and wants to become an Eagle Scout, so we’re in for awhile.
Swim classes end in a couple weeks, and after that he’ll have a break in sports for a bit. Winter is here and outdoor sports are difficult in the dark.
Spanish is a harder one — he’s probably dropped below where he was when he left his old school, but without this he would lose it all. Languages are important for so many reasons, but just keeping his brain wired so he can maintain that skill (even if he’s not conversant/fluent) is important. He enjoys it so there’s no reason to stop.
Rogue One enjoys a variety of things, and they are evolving over time. He’s not identified something he wants to spend all his time on (except Minecraft and Roblox on the iPad).
His siblings may or may not enjoy the same activities. Rogue One has no desire to do dance class, but Rogue Two is almost an honorary Cub Scout, having joined every Scout camping trip we’ve attended.
Rogue Three is mostly just trying to survive his older brothers. He loves their attention, but at age 14 months he already has enough spunk to jump on them and scream at Rogue Two when he steals his toys. I’m guessing he’ll eschew his older brother’s activities and go his own way.
What about you and/or your kids? What is too much and how do you find the balance?