Why am I here?

When I joined a new gym, I was given a questionnaire from the personal training department.  Was I joining the gym to: lose weight, gain fitness, increase endurance for a specific sport, make friends, rehab an injury, manage stress?

The statement underneath this question said “Participants who know their goals are more likely to stick with an exercise program.”

I thought that this was great advice, and I have taken to applying it to other activities that I choose for myself and my family.  We can’t do everything, and we have discussed that there are times to push and times to quit, but those decisions are complicated and nuanced and sometimes it helps to think about the goal of the program in the first place.

For example, if my kid does not excel at a sport but enjoys the social atmosphere of the team, and the coaches and other athletes are kind and supportive, that team might be worth doing IF socialization and fun are the goals.  If skill building or gaining confidence at the sport are the goals, time might be better used in private lessons for a while.

If fitness is a goal for a sedentary child, it might take some work to find an activity that they really enjoy and will participate actively in.  That child might not be a good fit for baseball where he might day dream in the outfield, he may be better off in a sport like swimming where he is forced to keep moving all the time.

I don’t really have a value judgement to make about various goals — developing a star athlete might be an appropriate goal for some, but inappropriately intense for others; being part of a community might be important to a homeschooled child, but a child who is totally peer driven might be better off forgoing an activity in favor of dinner and a board game with mom and dad sometimes.  Your child might need to gain confidence by being good at something or on the contrary might really benefit from the resiliency learned from losing from time to time.  Some children need to learn to relax and have fun, others need a push towards applying some focus and intensity, and different programs, as well individual coaches, will be better fits for different goals.

One of my children is a “middle of the pack” swimmer.  If she swims year round and takes lots of private training, I think she has the right body type and temperament to get pretty good.  However, her main joy is music and theater.  If she commits to a year round swim program, she won’t have time for those.  So, when she comes in 4th in summer swim meets I need to remind her (and myself!) that while she should try hard and improve personally, winning is not the goal for her right now.  She is there for fun and fitness, and with regard to those goals, this summer has been a huge success!

When I am driving my children around, when I am leaving a sink full of dirty dishes and spending my limited babysitting money on childcare during late night activities rather than date nights, I’d better be sure that it is worth it, and I can only know that if I figure out why we chose the activity in the first place.

  • Juris Mater

    Great post. I like your point here that fun and/or socialization can be worthwhile goals for an activity. Is fun/socialization for mom a reason to put a child into a sport too? Spring evening baseball is more about me hanging out with moms while my other kids eat pizza at the playground than it is about my son, who is only sort of good at baseball.

    • Mary Alice

      I think that falls under “being part of a community” and if your son likes it (whether he is good or not) it sounds like a win-win!

  • MaryAlice

    Explaining the picture above, by the way, ballet is a big, expensive commitment for us, but my younger daughter really loves it, and she spends a lot of time feeling not as awesome as her older sister, so it is great for her to have a place to shine. Confidence and joy are my goals of ballet for her. With that in mind, I think I will sign her up for another year, even though I had been hesitating to recommit when I know that she will never be a prima ballerina. It turns out, that’s not the goal!

  • Bethany

    MA, you do a great job of teasing the fine hairs of the why’s of quitting or pushing. You’re so right–the goals for different kids will be so different–and it’s vital to be assessing whether or not an activity fits the bill. For example, I signed my oldest two up for a soccer camp in August after some time and consideration. The goal for my oldest is to help him develop his skills to play travel eventually. The goal for my second oldest is to help him gain confidence so that he can play more aggressively on the field. Thankfully, the camp accomplishes both and I only have to drop them off at one time and place!

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com/ Kellie

    Your thoughts here are really great. The only thing I would add, and perhaps this makes it even more complicated, is figuring out how each activity works for the family too. For me, this is where things get really complicated, as I go through your above assessment, I feel pretty confident about my answers for each kid. And then I try to figure out how the best interest of a particular child matches with our overall schedule and everyone elses’ best interests and then my head starts to hurt.


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