Home Dear children…

Dear children…

by Shawni

Before your future selves start grumbling some day down the road because you think I didn’t put you in enough sports and extracurricular activities, please know that I weighed the pros and cons of endless lessons and outside activities carefully. And prayerfully.

You may not grow up to be child-prodigies at any one particular thing like that Tiger Mother’s kids are and I know some of you may resent that. But your Dad and I have decided we would rather have our kids be well-rounded and exposed to many things rather than pushing and pushing to push a square peg into a round hole of one particular interest. I hope you will remember that we spend most of our afternoons and evenings running you from here to there, helping to push you in ways we feel will help you grow. We have decided that is the path we want to take rather than pouring all our efforts one thing for each of you.

I know some of you may grow up just wishing with all your heart you were an expert at one particular thing. But what I know is that you will become an expert in what your heart leads you to. We just hope to be able to expose you enough to help you make the right decisions for yourself in the future.

As your parents we want to provide the soil with the perfect amount of fertilizer to help you reach your full potential.

You may never be in the olympics or play a musical instrument at Carnegie Hall (although we would of course be very proud of you if you did), but what we hoping most for is that you will become an “expert” at being kind to those around you as you maneuver your way through life and find your ultimate desires and passions yourself.

I know that if we can give you the right tools and the right exposure to enough different things you will find your way to your own version of “prodigy” some day. And we will support you every step of the way.

I love you with all my heart.

Love, Your Mother


Vivian September 15, 2011 - 8:30 pm

This is PERFECT. I just got back from lunch with a friend and we were discussing this very same subject. Sometimes I'm looked as the crazy mother because my children are involved in so much. As long as there are boundaries I believe they are growing to be just the "perfect" combination of kindness, perseverance, strength and hope that an individual should be. I know they are still little…but you start them since they are young. I least I owe that to my mother for that's why she did with my life…and I think I didn't turn out THAT bad 😉

Brandee September 15, 2011 - 10:31 pm

Brought tears to my eyes. If they ever want another perspective have Jensen come over. After 8 years of Ballet being her life, she quit! Burned out!! This would have been her last year and she didn't have it in her. She had missed so much of a teenage life…games, parties, youth trips, etc… Keep doing what you're doing!

Natty by Design September 15, 2011 - 11:49 pm

I think in this upper-middle class area that we live, it's too easy to over schedule our children because that's what those around us are doing. I know my kids are happiest when they get to come home and ride their bikes or jump on the trampoline – not head off to a practice of some sort. I also realize there's not a lot of lasting value to these "extras" that cause stress and rob families of thier time together. Your kids will thank you later for allowing them this chance to be kids and enjoy the flexibility of their lives that will inevitably disappear and they become providers and parents.

Nichole September 16, 2011 - 1:43 am

AMEN! Can I copy and paste this to my blog for my kids 😉

The Mom September 16, 2011 - 2:01 am

Love Love Love this!

Priscila ° September 16, 2011 - 4:01 am

Shawni, thank you for this! I've read your blog for months but I'm not big on leaving comments. Coincidently enough, I'm a 21-year old version of your children right now. And I used to think I wanted to be an expert in just one thing, instead of being good at a lot of things. Reading this has made me realize that my parents once made the same decision you and Dave have made, and it has helped me so greatly. I can't tell you how important it is to have my parents' support in absolutely everything I decide to start learning or decide to simply drop, because I know they'll cheer me on either way. I commend you for allowing your children to become experts in themselves. 🙂 Again, thanks.

stephanie September 16, 2011 - 5:14 am

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago, and I'm really grateful for your experiences and advice (my cousin Jodi Kirkham told me about it). Thank you so much for this post, Shawni–I feel like you read my mind sometimes! This goes along with another of my favorite posts of yours called "average vs. extraordinary"–we are going through this very process right now. It's so hard to find a balance for your kids of letting them try new things and not overscheduling or pressuring them! Thanks again for your thoughts.

Natty by Design September 16, 2011 - 5:26 am

Feel like my first comment came off as kind of snooty. Don't mean to be snooty – it's just hard to find balance and this post struck a chord with me.

Nancy September 16, 2011 - 12:33 pm

I would love it if you would expand on this a bit. Do you have a rule at your house about outside activities….like I know a lot of homes have a one outside activity at a time rule. I guess I'd just love to hear a little bit more on this topic…Thanks 🙂

Nancy September 16, 2011 - 12:40 pm

One other question I have is even if all 5 kids are only allowed 1 outside activity at a time I would think that you would still be running around like crazy…how do you keep it from getting out of control? We have 3 kids 7 and under and with 2 in soccer and religion classes I already feel like we run a lot and that's without the 3rd involved in anything yet.

dresselfamily.blogspot.com September 16, 2011 - 1:36 pm

Sometimes we as parents have to do 'hard things' for our children, but in the end we need to do what we feel in right, so yeah for you!
oh, and Natty, i didn't think you were been snooty LOL.

Shawni September 16, 2011 - 1:39 pm

Nancy, yes, we are running around like crazy and our kids are involved in a LOT. The rule of thumb is that they can take one music and one sport but some of them have more than that. It gets crazy. But we have decided that we want them to do what they're interested in to see what they end up loving.

This post is a little one-sided because we have not run into something that any of our kids are just out-of-the-world talented at. My thoughts may change a lot if we ever got to that point. Right now I'm just happy to let them do what they like and not decide for them what I think they should focus in on. Although we are really careful about what activities we will allow to take them away from family time, we want them to be led to what they love with just a little exposure to many different things.

You're right, things are nutty with five kids in all their different activities even with our careful discernment of how much to sign on for.

Shawni September 16, 2011 - 2:08 pm

Natty, I so agree…there is just a careful balance to be found and having some unstructured time is priceless for kids. (more on that back here: https://71toes.com/2009/03/make-believe.html)

This post is hinged from a lot of other thoughts I wrote about back here: https://71toes.com/2011/03/average-vs-extraordinary.html

mom September 16, 2011 - 4:15 pm


Dori September 16, 2011 - 4:21 pm

"Some think that there is something more important they should be doing, as if righteous living or parenthood is not sufficiently spectacular." Elder Maxwell

pakosta September 16, 2011 - 5:01 pm

AMEN! I love this Shawni! I just wish my girls would pick SOMETHING to do! anything, 10 things, they don't want to do ANYTHING but take pictures and made stop motion videos>!
love your heart!

MaryClaire September 16, 2011 - 5:35 pm

i love this shawni! thank you. i think it's something we all as mother deal with. p.s. i just registered to go to time out for women with a few friends in st. george. too bad you're not going to be there. i've never been, but i'm pretty excited about it.

Canadian Kristin September 16, 2011 - 6:57 pm

Thank you. I feel supported in the path my husband and I have taken and released from feeling I am failing the kids in paring down. [happy sigh]

Cynthia September 17, 2011 - 3:22 pm

I loved this post! If there is one thing that there is *always* a shortage of in our house…it's TIME! I really believe that the majority of the time should be spent in bonding and loving together as a family. The rest is extra, pure and simple.
Thanks so much for hitting this home!

Anna@Exasperation September 19, 2011 - 1:38 pm

I really, really needed this today.
Thank you.

K. West October 18, 2011 - 4:07 am

If life is too structured, they don't have the freedom to explore, create, and discover their passion. I totally agree with you!


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