Here’s Why Extracurriculars Are Worth the Time and Money

Nov 5, 2013

A few months ago, I set my alarm early in order to compete with all the other parents in trying to secure a spot in swimming lessons. Before the sun rose, mommies and daddies (and likely a few grandparents) across my fair city were simultaneously logging on to the municipality's Parks and Recreation website, competing for limited spots to get their kids into the right pool on the right day at the right time. I sat in the kitchen, bleary-eyed, and frantically clicking refresh on my three year-old daughter's behalf, remembering when I only did this sort of thing to score good concert tickets. Still, getting L into swimming lessons is worth both getting up early and the not-insignificant registration cost involved. We want her to also experience new things and meet new people. When my wife was still on maternity leave, she would take our daughter to Rhythm and Rainbows classes, which seemed to work out well. A follow-up kindergym program for all of three of us, however, was a bust. Aside from a quick circle sing-along, it was basically paying a lot of money to use an indoor playground. That's the thing about these classes: they tend to be pretty expensive, so it's disheartening when you don't feel like you're getting anything out of them. Fortunately, others were much bigger hits. L loved her cupcake baking class, which was also well-received by a certain father who got to eat her chocolaty homework. Mommy/daughter Ballet Fridays were also very big deals. Grandma bought her fancy dancing shoes, and now L knows her plies and positions, along with a routine involving Little Bo Peep and an imaginary balloon. 

As L gets older, it'll be interesting to see where her interests lie. Maybe it will be ballet, but maybe it'll be yoga, cooking, music, or falconry. I'd love for her to take art classes and be into drawing and--dare I dream the ultimate dream?--want to make comics. Little Island Comics does workshops for burgeoning young graphic novelists all the time and I'm lying if I didn't acknowledge part of me would want to vicariously live through this. But, I think it's important we let her decide what activities she wants to try. In other words, I think it's important she be involved with something athletic because of the discipline and fitness that encourages, but I'm not too picky whether it ends up being karate or fencing. Look, my wife would be thrilled if she pursued basketball and I'm already convinced she'll be the attacking midfielder the Canadian National Women's National Soccer Team sorely needs in a two decades, but she needs to decide. To kids, there's little worse than being forced to play a sport you hate. (I'm talking about you, T-ball.) Beyond teaching L how to swim, it's our hope these lessons do other things for our daughter. They're exposing her to other kids of other backgrounds and with other temperaments. They're teaching her to trust and listen to adults who aren't her family. They're also providing her with a sense of accomplishment and pride as she conquers ballet jumps or earns certificates and stickers. And look, there are less altruistic reasons, too. Organized classes help plan our free time and give a semblance of order to our occasional chaos. They allow us to make friends with other parents, and also keep us from being homebodies or finding excuses to just lounge about at home. And, when L is in the pool, working on a front float, they give us a break from being hands-on with our super-amazing daughter, allowing us to catch our breath and marvel from afar just how much we like that kid.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock 'n' roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no-ish hair and edits technical articles. He and his wife are collaborating on a three-year-old girl who may already be smarter than both of them. He received his MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario. More by Erik:Are Superheroes OK for Preschoolers?Do kids and concert mix?My father's influenceTake a hike with your kidsMy problem with princessesKids and comic conventionsGreen, guilt and giving up toys"Real" books vs digitalSharon, Lois and Bram ... and meToys for girls and boysNotes on children's musicMy kid loves comics. Yours could, too!

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