Just a few nights ago, I dropped off our second child at her very first dance class. She turns seven this week, and there are those who would say that at this age, she’s already terribly behind.
Fortunately, her dance classes are at the community dance center of a local university, and they accept beginners of all ages. As I left her in the mirror-lined studio with six other giggling girls her age, I found myself thankful again for a dance program that didn’t raise an eyebrow at her “late” start.
We are an intentionally low-activity family. As my husband and I have watched our friends sign their young children up for sports and activities of all kinds, we have kind of shrugged our shoulders at each other. Should we? Would they enjoy it? What will it cost our family—not just in dollars, but in time?
It’s that last question that has kept our activity commitment so low. We examined each opportunity that came across our kitchen counter in the form of flyers and handouts and shiny brochures. It was important to us to figure out just how big of a withdrawal each activity would take from our family’s time bank. And often, the cost was too high.
There are a few key components of our family’s mission statement, and making space for unscheduled, unstructured free time is such a critical part of our mission that it drives many of our decisions.
My husband’s family didn’t have a TV for a large portion of his childhood, and he often reflects on how he filled his time playing with neighbor kids. It was during those long stretches of goofing around with the kids who lived nearby that he began to recognize that he was pretty decent at football, a sport he would go on to play in college and then coach for a decade at the collegiate level. All this happened because he didn’t have much else to do besides toss a ball around in someone’s yard after school.1