Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Amanda Lamb: Know when to fold 'em

Posted February 9, 2014

When we were growing up our parents told us to “never quit,” to “never give up,” to “live up to our commitments.”

Most of us, in turn, as parents, have passed these important pieces of wisdom down to our own children. The problem is, just like all other truisms in life, there are exceptions. Life is not a Hallmark card, and conventional wisdom doesn’t always work. Yes, I’m saying it out loud, sometimes it’s OK to quit.

In the seventies and eighties when I was growing up, there was no such thing as an overscheduled childhood. We went to school, did all of our activities at school, and came home. If we were lucky, our parents occasionally attended a game or a school play if they didn’t happen to be busy that day.

But in our child-centric, Type-A culture, our kids run from one activity to another without so much as a real meal sitting at a table, a shower, time to do homework, or just time to be a kid. I am as guilty of perpetuating this phenomenon as any other parent.

Against my own better judgment, I allowed my younger daughter to add a year-round sport to her already crowded calendar this school year. She begged me to let her do it and I caved. But now my inner voice is coming back to haunt me: It’s too much, she’ll be stressed out and tired, she won’t have time for anything else. Guess what, my 47-year-old brain actually did know more than a 10-year-old brain, yet somehow I ignored my own intuition about the topic.

Sure, there has been some good that has come out of the experience. She has learned new skills and has dramatically increased her level of physical fitness. She has also realized by comparing the sport to her other activities that her first love is, and has always been, dance.

Dance, she now recognizes, is her passion and the activity she is committed to. The downside of adding the sport include the prior list (stress, fatigue) with the addition of a slightly lowered self-esteem from trying something for six months that she doesn’t feel like she has mastered in the slightest.

We are now at the point where she is begging me to let her quit, and I have been sticking to the “never give up” mindset. Suddenly, I asked myself why I was so married to this concept and realized it was the way I had been raised. I flashed back to many tearful nights at the dinner table when I begged my parents to write me a note saying I had a heart condition, and therefore, couldn’t participate in the mandatory team sports at my school.

Needless to say, I never got the note and spent many hours filling water bottles and keeping score at field hockey games when I would have rather been doing just about anything else.

So, like the Kenny Rogers song, sometimes you gotta just know when to fold em’. At this moment, the jury is still out on the final decision, but I’m starting to believe that walking away from the table isn’t always the wrong thing to do.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • thomasew52 Feb 11, 2014

    Over scheduling family life around kid activities is not good. Families need less activities, and more time for themselves. It is easy to overschedule, the voices coming to us from many sources beckon us to do this. We really put too much emphasis on kid stuff. Kids grow up, and move away. What is left then? Parents have to live with themselves after kids are gone. What happens if there is no groundwork for that? Parents lose touch w/ each other, and, relationships suffer for it.

  • RGMTRocks Feb 10, 2014

    My daughter is a high school Jr. She's been a dancer many years in a company and dances 4-7 days per week. In 8th grade, she wanted to add cheer, knowing it would be hard on the schedule. Now? Still dancing, still cheering and has a full sched of AP courses in school. I'm exhausted watching her - but she excels at all and is happy. She knew what she was getting into and was 'up for it'. She wouldn't trade any of it for anything. BUT, if she didn't want to continue that cheer path, I wouldn't balk AT ALL! At least it's not year-round though! If she were 10, I probably would have let her try such a schedule but if she wanted to quit the new sport for lack of loving it and put the emphasis back on what she does love, I'd say ABSOLUTELY OK!

  • br549znc Feb 10, 2014

    This is a no brainer. Quit and avoid the stress.

  • Amomoftwo Feb 10, 2014

    My youngest daughter broke her foot the night before her end of year dance recital...she cried...tears of joy over NOT having to perform! Lesson learned...should have let her quit at mid-year and saved her the stress!

  • AlternateOpinion Feb 10, 2014

    She's 10, she loves dance and is good at it. She tried the sport for 6 months, she doesn't like it. I certainly don't advocate flitting from one activity to another in an endless cycle of trying new things, but that's not the case here. If nothing new is tried, nothing is learned. Even if the thing is not for you, you learned something by trying it!

    As to her self-esteem, I wouldn't worry too much. The lesson learned from not mastering something is that no one can be the best at everything. We all do something well. None of us does absolutely everything well.

    I say walk away. You'll both be happier and healthier for it. You're doing a great job, Amanda.