Parenting: Saying 'no' is no fun for Mom

News-DemocratNovember 18, 2013 

One of the most frustrating things about being a working mom is having to tell your kid no.

Nearly every time she brings home a form for participation in a sport, I look at the practice and game schedule and know that it's just not doable. She wants to play volleyball this year, and I'd absolutely love for her to get involved in a sport like volleyball, but I just can't do it.

Practice is right after school, lasts for an hour or so and, unfortunately, no one will be able to pick her up after practice. It kills me to see the disappointment in her face when I try to explain that it just isn't possible. Weekend practices, we could do. After-school practices, no go. We live quite a distance from the school, so asking a classmate's parent to drop her off at home after practice would be placing too much burden on someone else and I won't impose on another family by asking them to let her hang around until someone can come pick her up.

It's a tough place to be in, as a parent. We want our kids to be involved, do something other than school work, be part of a team. But sometimes, it just isn't going to happen no matter how much we wish for it to happen.

I know how it feels to be on the other side, too. I grew up in a very similar situation: We lived in the boondocks, my parents both worked to keep us housed, clothed and fed. Because of that, I couldn't participate in sports that required after-school practice, either. Marching band, I could do. It was no big deal to get up early and be to school before 7 a.m., it worked into my mom's schedule. But after school, not so much. I was disappointed and now I know my mom was probably frustrated and disappointed, too, because she couldn't make it happen for me.

Do I feel now that I missed out in some essential way because I couldn't do every sport or school activity I wanted to do? Not really. My life was filled with other activities and hobbies that I still enjoy today. I can't say I'd still be playing volleyball if I could have done it in high school.

I try to get her involved in other things, non-school sports related. We do bow shoots, we ride horses, we shoot skeet, hunt, fish, go on nature hikes and have a few crafty things we do together. But none of those are team sports with her classmates, so its not quite the same thing. She has been on a soccer team, but a non-school sport with weekend games and weekend practices. Those we can do.

She is in after-school art club right now, which she loves. But the schedule just happened to coincide with my husband's college class schedule so it was a doable activity. I'm glad she has been able to at least do that, and she has loved every single moment.

I wish she could be involved in all the school activities she wants to do. I wouldn't mind having to juggle a schedule full of the things she wants to do or try, just to give her the opportunity to try something new to see if she likes it. She doesn't have to love everything she tries, or even be good at it. But to have the chance to give it a go is priceless.

I see and hear other parents complaining about all the things their kids are involved in, all the shuttling they have to do to get this kid or the other to a practice or a game or a performance. They have no idea how fortunate they are to be able to tell their kids yes, you can join volleyball or try out for the play or join gymnastics.

I try to ease the disappointment by reminding her that in a few short years she'll be able to drive. (Yikes!) And with that freedom, she'll be able to do any school activity her little heart desires. But I'm thinking that by that time, boys might be more interesting than volleyball. I sure hope not!

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