As my kids grow older I see the academic pressure mounting. Instead of going to school to learn and stretch their curiosity, it’s become a world of competition. The focus has shifted to the final outcome and not the process. The joy of learning is missing. The expectations are rising and children are either discouraged or pushing themselves to the brink of burnout just to get that A. Piles of due dates and homework steal their free time each night.
But what about growing outside of the academic world? Being book-smart is not the only thing kids need. Is school important? Absolutely! But what about character? Friendship? Teamwork? I value those traits more than book smarts and I won’t apologize.
I had a moment last week where I had to help my daughter choose. She had probably three hours of homework to get done and we needed to leave for her volleyball tournament. As I went through her school Chromebook and reviewed each class, I slowly shut the computer and pushed it aside with one quiet word: “No.”
“What do you mean?”She asked, and I repeated myself. “No. We’re leaving this where it is and going to your game.”
She tearfully said, “But Mama, I have to get that all done or I’ll lose my A.”
You see, she had already been filling out worksheets for an hour, and that was after a full day of school already. She was exhausted and needed a break. She cries almost every night because the work is just too much.
“Are you trying your best? Are you focusing when you should be?” I simply asked.
“It’s just too much, Mama. I’m tired after school and I want to go play. I can’t do this (schoolwork) every night.”
“All that matters is you’re trying your best. I see your efforts. I will not be upset if you lose your A.” I said.
She looked at me with big eyes.
“Do you want to go play volleyball?” I asked.
She nodded enthusiastically. And that’s when my heart changed about academic pressure.
“We’ll finish this later then,” I said.
What good will it do if my kids are incredibly smart and have spent time mastering the art of memorization so they can get an excellent test score, but they can’t understand social cues to get along with a stranger?
What good will a perfect test score be if they can’t understand or foster healthy relationships?
What good will graduating at the top of the class be if they get into the workforce and can’t work successfully as a team? Especially in today’s world filled with devices, this is becoming a problem. Kids are becoming increasingly unaware of how to relate to people or be around other humans.
This is where sports come in.
As we enter a new sports season, I will never apologize for letting my children play.
I will never apologize for setting down homework to pick up later.
Because as much as we run from place to place each week, they thrive. As much as we travel to a tournament each weekend, they grow. The character growth and social ability I have seen come from watching them interact with their teammates is incredible.
They have experienced situations and emotions that can’t be replicated off the field. And until you’ve been there witnessing it, you can’t understand.
You will be judged. You will be side-eyed. Many decisions you make will be scrutinized by people who don’t get it.
But they don’t get it.
I want to encourage you to never apologize for what you decide is best for your family.
We emphasize always trying your best and being focused at school, if that results in an A, fantastic. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. There’s too much pressure coming from all sides to be perfect that we actually have forgotten that this is their childhood. They are children. They should be allowed to run and play and have no worries or stress.
And as mothers, we should be able to also support what they want to do without feeling guilty. There is more to life than a report card of straight As.
I will continue to support them in school and encourage good grades but I will not push perfection. And when the chance arrives to give them a much-needed break, we’ll take it.
Cheers to this year’s season, sports moms. Stand strong and let’s do this!