Do you push your child too far?

Posted Friday 8th February 2013   By Ericka Waller

So reading “I pushed my daughter too far with mandarin lessons“ got me thinking. Why do we send our kids to after-school activities? Is it because they beg us to? Is it because other mums send their kids to after-school clubs and we need to keep up with them? Is it so we can brag about our children’s extra-curricular achievements, or is it so we get even more childcare?

Before Christmas I was sending Five to swimming, drama, ballet and gym. Tennis was going to be next on the list.

She never wanted to go to any of them. She cried all the way there, as I drove across mid-town traffic like a mad-woman, trying to change her shoes and keep the younger two awake at the same time. (Water pistols are cruel, yes, but effective.)

I never stopped to think about why we were doing it. I just kept promising her what a great time she would have when we got there. Sometimes she did, and sometimes she did not. Mostly, I was too busy trying to keep Two and One occupied in dusty church kitchens to notice either way (chocolate buttons, iPhones and tic-tacs. What great parenting.)

And then at Christmas, Five caught the flu, just before her birthday. It knocked her off her feet. I always see her as my big girl but for a week she was my baby again. Watching her sleeping the days away tucked up with her faithful soft toy, I was consumed by guilt. Was I responsible for her illness? Did I run her into the ground? If I had just bought her home after school for tea and Mr Tumble, would she still have got sick?

What was I doing it all for? Not her certainly, and not my other children who cried and begged and bickered.

I never went to any after school clubs. My mum signed me up for ballet, but always forgot my ballet kit. It’s hard to feel like a ballerina in your big brother’s baggy y-fronts and He-man vest (I was the only girl after two boys. It did not bode well for hand-me-downs). I soon gave up, and I certainly don’t feel my life has lacked because of it.

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