My children quit activities they don’t like. Just like that. Guitar? Martial arts? Gymnastics? Music? Art? Naked hang-gliding?* They don’t like it, they don’t want to go, they quit. No fuss. We move on to something else. Or nothing.
I don’t say, “But I paid for it, so you have to finish it.” (Although I suggest—“We have six classes left. Can you give it a couple classes more before you really make up your mind?” And sometimes they say yes. And sometimes they say, “No, I know I hate this. I don’t need to go any more to find out.”)
I don’t say, “But you wanted to!” Because, seriously, when a five-year-old asks for—insert activity of choice here—she really doesn’t really understand what it entails, what it means. It sounded like fun, cool. But now she’s doing it. And it blows goats.
I don’t say, above all, “In this family, we finish what we started!” Because—I don’t finish unreadable books. I walk out of bad movies. I don’t finish that $40 entree at the fancy restaurant when it tastes foul.
You’re getting edgy, I can see. You’re going to say… but none of those are important things.
You know what? Neither is art class at four. Ballet at seven. Most if not all of the extra-curricular activities children are put in—at younger and younger ages—are thoroughly, completely unimportant and irrelevant. Or, to be less negative: they are as important and relevant as my enjoyment of a book, a movie, a meal. They are supposed to be pleasure. Fun. If they are—awesome. The child will want to go.
And when they’re not… why do you feel compelled to make them go?
I’m going to up the stakes a bit. Listen to this: I quit jobs that make me miserable. I stop working for clients who don’t respect or deserve my time. I withdraw my time and passion from causes that drain me. I don’t invest in relationships that don’t fill me.
If it’s making me miserable and I can let it go—I do. I quit. I walk. I stop.
And here’s the thing, beloved. I am incredibly successful. Obscenely self-disciplined. Really, despite the chaos I let you enjoy here, extremely organized. I get things done.
Define important as you will…
I want my children to learn to value—their time. I want them to pursue their passions, talents, and skills. I don’t want them to confuse time wasters and schedule fillers with.. essentials. Because the older you get, the more you grow into adulthood, the more time wasters and schedule fillers are thrust at you by people who never learned the difference.
So. Take away this from my ramblings today. If your son** tells you he wants to quit violin-soccer-Mad Science-biathalon, ask—“Are you sure?” Ask, sure, “Why?” Listen to the answer. And let him quit without worrying that you’re failing to teach him a lesson.***
You’re teaching him this:
Your mother listens to you.
Your time is valuable. I honour where you choose to give it, even now.
And then, beloved… think about where you choose to give your time. And whether you are valuing it. Your time, talent, passion is precious. That thing you’re doing that’s sucking you dry, exhausting you, making you ill with anxiety? Is it important? Is it essential? Is the goal to which it leads worth it?
If it is—by all means, suck it up. Persevere. Get to the top, over the finish line.
If it falls in the category of Drama Start for Preschoolers? Quit.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things I want to finish…
Photo: Hard at play, hard at work.
*I put that in there to make sure you were reading, not skimming.
**It’s usually my son.
***Really listen to the answer. There’s always a subtext. Find it.