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.