Why I Never Pushed My Kids Into Sports Or Other Activities

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Last Saturday, I spent the day outside with my kids. My youngest is a hardcore gardener and he transplanted herbs around our duck house and spent time putting the vegetables he’d started this winter in the garden beds.

My oldest was excited to go work for his father. He’s getting to know the plumbing trade and loves the independence this job gives him. He’s bought his own car, pays for his own gas, and likes seeing his bank account grow.

After work, he spent the afternoon fishing while my daughter and I sat on the back deck and watched her ducks waddle around the yard.

My Saturdays used to consist of going to a few different basketball games. Then, in the spring, my butt would be parked on the baseball field.

We used to do all sports, all year long. With three kids, that’s a lot, yes — but I enjoyed every minute of it.

I guess I always thought they’d love baseball, lacrosse, basketball, and ski club, but little by little, my kids fizzled on the sports fields and they just didn’t have fun anymore.

There was a part of me that wanted to push them. They were good and I wanted them to learn the value of sticking with something and working hard. However, it was very clear they were growing miserable and there were so many other things they wanted to be doing.

Sure, there’s time to fit it all in I guess, but who wants to do that? I, for one, am so damn tired of glorifying The Busy and giving my kids tiny slots of time to do the things they enjoy because I think they should be playing sports or in some club they aren’t really feeling.

My oldest son traded in his basketball Saturdays and Friday night Ski Club sessions for time in the gym. He loves lifting weights and he puts a lot of time and energy into researching exercises and fueling his body to support his passion.

He amazes me with what he can do with his car. He knows how to change tires, and diagnose all kinds of problems I can’t even begin to explain.

And after trying to talk my two younger kids into sticking with the sports and clubs they were in (but were clearly over), it was apparent that they were miserable. I realized trying to get them to stay interested in something wasn’t serving any of us. And instead of forcing them to go to games and practices they didn’t want to be at, it gave them room to find other interests and hobbies they may never have gotten into had I dictated their life.

I realized I wanted them to stay invested in certain things, and what I needed to do was listen to what they wanted to do and give them an opportunity to explore non-traditional things like gardening, raising ducks, and working on cars.

We are constantly teaching our kids to use their voices, to be themselves, to speak up for what they believe in. So, it didn’t feel right to me to tell my children they should give baseball more time, or they had to play lacrosse no matter what, when they were very clearly using that voice I told them to use and told me what was right for them.

Yes, there are times when parents need to override their kids’ decisions. We need to look out for their physical and mental health. There are times they need more guiding and directing.

But as my kids got older and reached the middle school years, I felt confident they were the only ones who knew if they wanted to continue doing certain things.

It’s not about me and what I want them to do; they are the only ones who know what sets their heart on fire. And if it doesn’t involve throwing a ball, or playing on a team, I don’t want to be the reason they stayed somewhere they didn’t feel like their soul should be.

My kids love their jobs. They love creating. They love spending time with animals and experimenting in the garden. I don’t think it was something they would have tapped into had I forced them to keep up with all the sports they were playing.

It’s important to me to give my kids room to develop and explore things that may not matter on a college application or a resume.

And when I see how happy these non-traditional things make them, it will always be worth it to me.

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