It's that time of year again — the time that causes my stomach to knot and my jaw to clench. I'm writing all the activities for the all the children onto the master calendar. And I'm wondering why it is we do what we do. Is it really worth the effort to make these opportunities come to life for our children?
My boys are competitive athletes. My eldest will no longer have his intensive training and game schedule on my calendar because he's moved it to the collegiate level. Those time slots will not grow cold though, because my 8-year-old is moving into the travel soccer world and my soon-to-be-5-year-old has persuaded her father to allow dance lessons. Between the two of them, Michael's schedule slots should fill nicely.
My feelings about extracurricular activities vary with the day, the time of year and the number of hours I slept the previous night. Because my children are educated at home, they are not away from me during most of the day. These activities provide opportunities for social interaction and for learning how to navigate in the world. They also give them exposure to other adults and management styles. Those adults have considerable influence over my children. They are carefully chosen and we cultivate relationships with all of them. Each child is limited to one extra-curricular activity. Still, eight children, eight coaches or teachers — this is no small investment in time or money.
As I write, Christian, who is 15, is waiting for his basketball coach to pick him up. They are going to play golf. Why? Because this man, who is the grandfather of a teammate, is a just plain great guy. He likes teenage boys, even with their attitudes and their challenges. He's good with them and he coaxes the best out of them. He's been coaching longer than I've been living and he loves this age group. God bless him. I'm grateful for him.
Today, Patrick's soccer coach is in Utah with Patrick's team. My husband is out there, too. In the eight years since Patrick first played for Dennis, we have become very good friends of his family. Sometimes, I joke that my husband talks to Dennis more than he talks to me. And sometimes, I'm not joking. But as Paddy grows and he becomes more dedicated to his sport, we become more committed than ever to ensure that it's time well spent in the company of good people. For better or worse, competition is a fact of life and with it comes all sorts of interpersonal challenges. My prayer is that my children will learn be in the world but not of the world in the company of good men who coach and play with noble ideals. It's never perfect but we do keep trying.
Katie is just barely kindergarten age. This summer, every time someone has asked the inevitable "Are you starting school in the fall?" question, she grins from ear to ear and does a little jig. "I'm going to the Joan Izzo Academy. They love Jesus." What the questioner rarely knows before Katie explains is that the Joan Izzo Academy isn't a kindergarten, it's a dance school. But Katie has the Jesus part right. Every winter and spring for her entire lifetime, she's been thrilled to sit in the audience and watch her big sister dance. And after every performance, she's heard Mrs. Izzo make it very clear that the mission of the school is to teach young ladies to dance for the glory of God. That's extraordinary.
I know that my girls will spend much time with other girls in a setting which can often be problematic. Dance schools are notorious for cliques and cattiness and image and eating disorders. All that changes when the stated and practiced mission is giving the glory to the Lord of the Dance.
So, I sit here and take deep breaths and try very hard to make it all work out on paper. Who will drive where and when? Who do we know and trust who can help us get children from here to there? How will we invest our time and money so that both are well spent nurturing the souls of our children? It's a matter for prayer — and extra large calendar grids.