parents

KATE: 'In our house, it's just one sport per kid per term.'

Too much time, too much money, too much stress.

By KATE HUNTER

The schoolbooks are contacted, you’ve filled in the paperwork dealing with allergies, internet use, media permissions, school swimming and library borrowing.

What next? I’ll tell you what’s next: sport sign-on.

It feels like it’s happening earlier and earlier every year. The first hockey / soccer/AFL/netty games don’t even start in my neck of the woods until April, but the battle for recruits is ON!

Each code goes a little earlier every year, trying to beat the others to the punch. I predict that before long there will be rugby sign-on forms placed discreetly in maternity hospital rooms. It’s not surprising; there’s a lot of money at stake. Sign-on fees for junior teams sports are around the $200 mark and then there are uniforms, match fees, sometimes payment for umpires.

We have three kids who will play AFL, netball and hockey respectively. Registration and associated costs added up to the best part of $800. But for our family, that will be it. Other sporting activities will be dropped or at least, suspended until (a) those damn Powerball numbers come up and/or (b) kids can get them to and from matches and training on their own.

One sporting and one cultural activity per term, per kid is the rule in our family. Netball or tennis, not both. Guitar or drama, not both.

If the kids were jumping out of their skins to do more, or my favourite way to spend an afternoon was reading a magazine in a sweaty sports centre, that’s be different.  But I’d rather be working, cooking dinner or sticking hot needles under my cuticles.

Gymnastics will be given a swerve for the winter and now that the kids are confident in the pool, swimming gets a no from me too.

I know I might be unusual in this – many families I know have every afternoon and evening accounted for.

Saturdays and Sundays are fully booked until December.

My neighbour has two kids who each have two activities after school every day. Plus home tutoring three times a week. They have a whiteboard bigger than the scoreboard of the MCG.

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We’re so worried our kids will be left behind.

If that’s what floats their family boat, I’d say fine, but this mum’s sole topic of conversation is about how ‘frantic’ their lives are. She complains she has no time for haircuts, seeing her friends, reading books.

She’s either at work or hurtling round the ‘hood in her station wagon dropping off and picking her kids and stuffing them with muesli bars en route. Bravely, I suggest her daughter skips something – swimming perhaps, at least through the winter.

My neighbour looks at me as if I’ve been sniffing chlorine. ‘No,’ she says, ‘If Chloe drops squad she’ll be left behind when they start up again.’

And there’s the problem. We’re so worried our kids will be left behind, left out, the only ones, that we make ourselves slaves to their success.

Get them into tennis at five or it’ll be TOO LATE when they’re nine!

You don’t want your kid to be the only one of his friends not playing soccer do you? What if he changes his mind and he’s put in a team with no one he knows?

She swims fine but her breaststroke is a bit munty, so better keep those lessons going or she’ll come last at the swimming carnival and that’ll be so bad for her self esteem.

Some kids I know play a sport for a club and another for their school on a Saturday, requiring a rally-car burn through suburban streets with the kids performing a Beyonce-style costume change in the backseat while slurping an Up’n’Go.

It’s all too much. For me, anyway. Too much time, too much money, too much stress. None of the families I’m referring to above seem that much happier than us, and their kids don’t appear to be attracting the attention of national selectors just yet.

The fear of kids being left out is encouraging parents to cram more in. When all they really need, in my opinion, is more time blatting around at home.

How many activities are too many?

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