Yesterday was our sons’ annual well check at the pediatrician’s office. I never know exactly what to expect at these check ups because my kids are loose canons. When the doctor asks them questions, I’m never sure how they’ll respond. When Joe was five, he told the doctor that I fed him only bread and water and that he had no bed time. While the no bed time comment was true because he would never follow an actual schedule, I was in fact feeding him decent foods on a regular basis. Luckily for me, pediatricians are used to all sorts of weird answers from children, so the doctor lets my boys’ weirdness slide. I’m sure he goes home at the end of our visit, however, and tells his wife the crazy things I say immediately after my children make some random declaration of child abuse: “I do feed him. I swear I do. Bread and water are his favorite foods.”
Now that the boys are school age, the questions are a bit different. The doctor yesterday asked them what grades they were going into, what school they attended, and how they were doing in their studies. He then asked them the question I dread the most.
“So, what sports do you guys do?”
“Ummm…we don’t do any sports,” Joe replied.
“I don’t like sports,” was Luke’s immediate response.
“Well, what do you do when you’re outside then?” the doctor tried again.
“Nothing,” Joe said.
“Play with friends,” Luke said.
“I think he means what kind of exercise do you do,” I prompted.
“We don’t like exercise,” Joe replied.
“But, they do get exercise,” I back pedaled. “They hike, ride bikes, and swim in the summer. We snowshoe and hike in the winter.”
“What do you boys want to be when you grow up?” he tried again.
“I’m not telling you,” said Luke, too embarrassed to reveal that his dream is to be an Ironman-like superhero who designs sets for the Lego company.
“I don’t know,” Joe answered honestly.
“That’s okay,” the doctor told him. “Lots of grown ups don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.”
True enough. The doctor breezed through the rest of the well check, clearly unconcerned about Luke’s refusal to eat vegetables (“He’s gaining weight and his blood tests look good”) and Joe’s split lip (“Throw some Aquaphor on there and give it time”).
While we were on our trip, many of the kids the boys played with asked them about sports. Most of our friends’ sons participate in multiple sports and play in all kinds of leagues. We know soccer players, baseball players, football players, hockey players, and lacrosse players. They have friends who do tae kwon do, swim team, and triathlons. They regularly watch sports on television and have favorite teams. Our boys, on a good day, can maybe tell you the names of the four pro sports teams in Denver. Maybe.
Steve and I were discussing the other day the fact that our kids have shown no interest in activities and sports. We’ve registered them for soccer, baseball, swimming, and sports camps and they’ve whined about having to go. They just can’t bring themselves to care. Honestly, I’m relieved they don’t. Our nights are not hurried to get to and through practices and my weekends aren’t spent sitting on a wet, grassy sideline as it snows on my sons’ games. I don’t miss it.
Prompted by the comments of friends, though, about how our boys need activities to get into college and how by the time they decide they’re interested in sports the other kids will be far better than they are and they will not make the team, I have wondered if we’re doing our sons a great disservice by letting them skip out on sports when they’re young. Then, the other day, hubby said something that made me feel much better about it all.
“You know, they may not be great at sports. But, you know what they are great at? Being kids.”
He’s right. They’re 9 and 11. They have their whole lives to decide what their interests are and what they enjoy. For now, it’s good enough that they like to dress up in crazy costumes and run around carrying plungers and being superheroes. Our boys might be short on discipline, but they’re long on imagination. And, that may serve them just as well if not better in the long run.