Sometimes I see things better in word pictures. These come to me sometimes out of the blue and other times are provided for me by my observations. The current series of VISA checkcard commercials has given me a wonderful metaphor for our lives today. With all the people scurrying around in dancelike, trancelike harmony with everything and everyone juggling perfectly until someone chooses to pay cash or write a check, then everything goes to hell in a handbasket.
In our busy lives we are so much like this. We schedule things so closely that we need everything to go the way we planned or everything crashes down around us. We plan vacations for short school breaks to take our kids places that they only want to see because their parents think they need to, and they leave right after school and return the night before school starts back, and the "break" is definitely not a break for anyone but the bank. Why do we do these things? Why are we so busy? Another provided metaphor is from "Field of Dreams" with the famous line "if you build it, they will come". And come they did! If you offer it, they will sign up. Whether it's gymnastics or cheer or soccer or baseball, you name it, they'll come. They'll sign up and buy a uniform and commit a 3 year old to a year's worth of lessons when all she said was "I want to be a cheerleader, mommy". She doesn't have to start at 3 to be a cheerleader, or does she? Every parent thinks their child is going to be a professional at their activity, or at least get a college scholarship. The disappointment starts when Junior would rather climb a tree than kick a ball, or little Sally doesn't want to go to gymnastics anymore when she could be so good if she would just practice.
We've idolized sports. Not just sports figures, but sports in general. Parents are reprimanded by friends if they don't have their child signed up for at least one sport per season by the age of 3. Have you ever watched 3 year olds play soccer? Or play anything? Herding cats is easier than getting a 3 year old to figure out which goal he's supposed to kick the ball into or which way to run after he hits the ball off the tee (who invented tee ball, anyway?). The best that can come of such an activity is that you have the next Tiger Woods or Andre Agassi or Alex Rodriquez on your hands, you'll be set for life. But far more likely is you'll give up precious family time and freedom in your life and end up with a kid with a stomach ache or sore shoulder or chronic injury who was so good at baseball at 12 but now is either burned out or injured so that college scholarship is down the drain and you're stuck paying shrinks and orthopods to fix what you messed up.
Then there's school. Who doesn't want their child to excel in school? Let's start really early with Baby Einstein and teach her some Spanish and she'll be way ahead of the other kids. Guess what? She doesn't want to be way ahead of the other kids! She wants to be just like the other kids. So if you want your child to do some of the things you want her to do, and act the way you'd like her to act, don't send her to school until you have to. Once you let them have her, you're having to explain evolution and gay rights and tolerance and you don't even have solid opinions on these subjects yourself. You'll have to listen to "teachers" at preK tell you he has trouble focusing, or she can't sit still, or he seems uncoordinated. You'll bring them to me and I'll tell you they're fine but you'll have a friend who will tell you to take her to this or that doctor who will give them some therapy regimen and a diagnosis or medicine that then you want me to write the prescription for because otherwise your insurance won't pay for it and you'll say that you really trust me but you just felt like you had to pursue this, yada yada yada.
Face it, your child is probably not going to be a professional athlete or a national merit scholar. He or she is probably going to be just a normal person with normal intelligence and aspirations. If you set up your expectations in another way, you will be disappointed. You will also make your child crazy or depressed or anxious. They will sense your frustration with quitting soccer at 6 or not making the classic team or not wanting to spend 20 hours a week at the gym or ice rink to "go to the next level". Let them be kids! Enjoy them! Don't you remember? I do. I was the gifted piano player with perfect pitch but I wanted to climb the mimosa tree outside the piano teacher's house more than I wanted to play piano at age 6, so I quit, and now I wish I hadn't, but you know, it's OK, I'm OK with it. It would be great to know how to play piano, but not being able to play piano hasn't made life unbearable. I've made it just fine and found other things to do. I've channeled the tree climbing into more cerebral activities and I've been able to stick to some commitments long enough to see them pay off.
So...relax and let life come to you. You don't have to "grab for the gusto". Don't worry that you'll miss the chance for your child to excel at something. Rather, enjoy life. Enjoy your kids. Come home and kick the ball in the yard. Ride bikes. Teach them to hit a ball. No teams, no practice, no schedule. Do it because you like it, and they'll like it, too. You were not allowed by God to have children to schedule every minute of every day just right and if you don't you're going to hell. You were given children to enjoy, to instruct and train in what's right and in the truth about Who created them and this marvelous planet we live on and why we want to be nice to other people and let them ahead of us in line sometimes and share, and not be so tightly scheduled that if your kid breaks his arm or gets pneumonia you'll be more concerned about your child than the plans their misfortune messed up.