I have a bunch of wise sisters.

One of them, who happens to be the “baby” of our family, told me something years ago that I still think about all the time.

It was a bit of parenting advice she gave that I had solicited. (I always like to pry any sort of parenting ideas from anyone who will share them…some of my favorites are from those who don’t have children yet…they have such a fresh, unbiased outlook on the mothering thing.)

When I asked her advice, she looked at me with my gaggle of small children surrounding me and said, “Make sure your kids do one thing they are really good at. And help them stick with it with all your might.”

You see, she wished with all her heart that she could have started dance lessons before she even started walking. She had discovered in her teens that her ultimate passion was dance. And as much as she really was an incredible dancer, she couldn’t help but wonder where she could be had she started earlier. In the back of her mind I could tell she was wishing my mother had been a drill sergeant sticking her in dance lessons every spare minute of her life.

Over the years I have pondered what she said, and she definitely has a point. There is something enticing about being extraordinary at one particular thing.

But here’s the thing: I don’t feel the same way my sister does. I am glad I got to do a bunch of things growing up and that I wasn’t stuck at some dance studio or behind a piano for hours on end every week. I was happy as a clam to be average at a bunch of stuff. I could pick up a violin and know where to put my fingers, scratchy or not. I learned to play chess, a teeny bit of volleyball, and “Jessica’s Theme” from Man from Snowy River. My sisters and I were in a performing singing group and we even got to put on our own play of Annie one summer up at Bear Lake. I’m pleased as punch that I got to dabble in art and even take a few clogging classes.

Do I wish I could be an expert at one of these things? Sure I do…wouldn’t anyone? But I know the price I would have had to pay, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want to pay it.

I tried a little of everything, did not excel at anything, but couldn’t feel more complete with my growing-up years. As shy as I was, I adored being with my friends. I liked dating. I liked the process of figuring out what I wanted to do myself rather than being dictated by a parent.

Which leads me to this question:

How in the world can a mother know what her child will want when she/he is, say, two-years-old?? Because let’s face it, in our society, if you want to truly excel at one thing you kinda have to start about then to become super-amazing at it.

Now, I am a little biased, but I think my mom knew us pretty darn well growing up. She spent time with us. She and my dad had regularly scheduled planning meetings specifically addressing our development and what would be good for us. But there was no crystal ball to tell them “this child is going to want to be a concert pianist,” or “this one’s going to want to do a little of everything.” There’s no way they could have known way back then that my sister would want to drink in dance lessons. Parents just have to figure it out as they go.

Yes, we have the best resource in the world: a loving Father in Heaven who will most certainly be our partner and help guide us along as we reach out for help, but there’s a lot I’m sure He prefers we (and our children) figure out ourselves. And man alive that is tough.

But I believe that part of the struggle of figuring out what we want to be makes us grow even more.

For the last couple weeks I’ve been agonizing over whether or not I should have Claire join a more advanced gymnastics class she qualified for.

Now, it’s not a big, huge olympic decision or anything, just a simple choice that would make a difference of six of her hours each week. Six of my hours. Six of our family’s hours (which is more of a big deal, especially since it will cause a sizable shifting-around for the family schedule if it happens). But to me it signifies the choice of whether I want to help her branch off to be extraordinary at one particular thing, or whether I want to have her take the branch leading the other direction: average at a bunch of things (and please note that the word “average” should have a good connotation here). The question I keep asking is whether her inner self is more like my sister or more like me. And the problem is that I don’t know that I can really know that at this age. She doesn’t know it for crying out loud!

As I watched her little gymnast body out there on the floor “trying out” for the new team I was taken back by the fact that she really is good. She’s got quite a bit of natural talent. But is gymnastics what will make her happy in the long run?

At some point you realize that you have a lot of power as a parent. You can push your child one way or another because really, they just don’t know when they’re so young. Claire herself could take or leave this class and all the future things it could lead to. But what in the world is her future self going to wish for? My sister’s voice in my head tells me to push her…make her stronger…help her excel. Will her future self be grateful if I push her into something I see so much promise in? Or will she be like me and thank her lucky stars her mom didn’t shove her into something that would eventually take her away from exploring so many other things she loves? At seven I can’t for the life of me tell which direction Claire’s future self will thank me for.

I finally decided we should give it a go. “It’s just a class!” I thought to myself. We’ll try it and see.

And then Grace accidentally slammed Claire’s finger in the car door on the way into gymnastics for the big sign-up. It swelled up like a balloon…all black and blue. It may be broken. Although I don’t know much about gymnastics I do know that it would be tough to do a round-off back handspring when you have a broken finger. Is that a sign? Hmmmmm…

Gymnastics is just a little example. Yes, a tiny drop in a sea of much more important things in life. But it’s just got me thinking. Life is chock-full of these little forks in the road. I guess ultimately we must turn to the One who knows best, and go forward with faith that we are on the right track….teaching and loving our children as best we know how along the way. That is what will help make them extraordinary, whether they are well-rounded or highly sharpened at what they do in the end.

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  1. I think about this all the time. When I was younger, I wished my parents would have been harder on me so I could be more disciplined. And now, as my oldest is old enough to start in sports and other extracurriculars, we're struggling to decide whether to follow his lead or decide for him.

    How did your kids get started in the activities they're currently in? Did you have to try a whole bunch to see what they liked and give up on some that wasn't as good a fit? How do you know?

    Wow. Sorry that was so long, guess you got me thinking too!

  2. When our Claire was six, we went through the EXACT same thing–she was chosen out of a group of 25 to go to invitational gymnastics, which was six to nine hours a week. It's too much to write out here, but if you're interested, I can email you what we decided and why.

  3. How tall is Claire likely to end up? Taller girls don't seem to show up at elite level gymnastics. If you are going to choose for her 1 thing to excel in, make sure it is going to be a good fit for her body type as she continues to grow.
    I sure hope her finger gets better quickly 🙂

  4. Oh boy, do I think about this a lot! Sometimes I have lamented the fact that I'm not amazing at anything, but mostly I'm glad that I am interested in so many things, that I can make friends with people who have a bunch of different talents and interests. But I look at my daughter and see so much natural ability in gymnastics or ice skating or hear her begging for a violin and wonder what area we should push her in. Your parents' article for the deseret news about this really made me think. The truth is, in this world there is a lot of sacrifice to be extraordinary. And sometimes what gets left behind are the most important things.

  5. Interesting post! Depends who you are asking. My kids seem to be drawn "love" few things vs. many. I see kids that are in everything and they look tired, worn down, and bottom line is they don't even like it, let alone love it. When they were little we tried all sorts of things. If they dreaded going to practice, complained, that was it. When we found something they liked, couldn't wait for practice – we knew that would stick. This has been our "balance". And if it ever interfered with family, family came first. No matter what. With fewer things on our plate, they could give 100% and find the balance that kids need but can't usually find it on their own. By the way, love your blog……

  6. Wow I wish I could write like you. I have had all these same thoughts and continue to struggle with it. Have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Anything by Gladwell is good but this one is particularly relevant to the topic – and by the way – makes a great book club discussion. Good luck with your decision. And thanks for your awesome blog.

  7. Here are the thoughts that came to me as I read this. First, let me preface that I am a mother of two little boys and so in regards to applying this in my parenting, it hasn't happened yet (and I don't really look forward to having to make these kind of decisions – haha).

    But, I grew up in Northern Utah. I played several city sports growing up, but then started in focusing on playing soccer competitively towards the end of elementary school. Had we stayed living in Northern Utah I would have had to play soccer and only soccer if I wanted a chance to play in HS. But, we moved to Southern Utah and down here they didn't have competitive year round sports really established yet. In HS I was able to play all sports and I loved it. I hurt my ankle my senior year and wasn't able to go play college soccer like, but I still had the opportunity to do so at a smaller college.

    But, here is what I regret. Not putting at least some of my effort and time into learning something that could really benefit me now, as an adult. I am left with a sore lower back, hips and pelvic bones. Not the ability to play the piano as a church calling or even sing that well. I wish I would have divided some of my time into learning an instrument and or doing voice lessons too. My mother didn't like "forcing" us into practicing the piano. She was born with a love for the piano and hated hearing us complain about practicing. My kids however, will play the piano or some instrument. And they can complain, but they will still do it! haha 🙂

    Good luck with the transition and all the future choices!

  8. Wow, your post brings alot of comfort. We face those same decisions all the time. Ultimately, I have to remind myslef that if Heavenly Father wanted one of my five children to completly excel at an extracurricular activity, he would not have sent their spirit to me, with the financial and time constraingts large families face. What really turely matters is that I bring my children up in light and truth. Personally, I've found that the more competitive activities seem to suck away some of the "better" parts of family life. Good luck in your decision. It's rough!

  9. Wow!

    This hits so close to home!

    I did not want my children to grow up in a studio or a gym. We homeschooled off and on during the elementary years and would spend whole days outdoors at the park or exploring the nooks and crannies of beautiful Colorado where we live.

    When my second daughter was eight she was "bit" by the gymnastics bug and for two years pleaded with me to let her join a rec center class. I told her to have her friends teach her tricks and she learned many basic moves…but that begging, I just finally caved when she was ten.

    She quickly moved through the Rec Center Program and qualified for the high school team. Her two best friends were USAG gymnasts who are both on their college teams..

    As for my daughter, in high school she realized that she liked basketball more than gymnastics and a shoulder injury stopped her high school gymnastics participation when she was in 10th grade.

    During high school she played Volleyball, Basketball, ran Track on a state level team, and as a Senior was the captain of her girls basketball team.

    Now as a freshman in College she is working part time as a gymnastics coach teaching the level one girls a few hours a week. When she was home for spring break last week I asked her if she was missing out by not participating on the college gymnastics team. She told me she was not good enough to be on that team, as most of the girls were level 10 USAG gymnasts while still in high school.

    Her two best friends are currently living the dream by competing and participating on high level college teams, and my daughter is coaching 5 year olds.

    I did not have the courage to ask her if she wished we had just bit the bullet and dedicated her whole life to the sport so she could have competed at that high level.

    Ultimately it is not really important as it is no longer a possibility.

    She is focusing on her degree and perhaps working as a Trainer or a Physical Therapist some day.

    As for me as Mom, I had a picture of who I wanted my children to be before they were born….a clan of little intellectuals who scoffed at wasting time on television and sports, who spent most of their waking hours focused on music, literature, service, and the arts.

    The reality of our family life is so far removed from earlier visions, that I just have to laugh thinking about what my "ideal" family looked like.

    Because I was into theatre and looked at sporty girls as being somewhat daft, I assumed my daughters would be " just like me".

    The clincher when making the decision to even do gymnastics in the first place was a spiritual prompting I had when we were mulling it over…Heavenly Father let me know that it would be very good for Allison to participate in gymnastics.

    While I would have preferred ballet and voice lessons, I am so greatful we listened to our daughter and the sweet and gentle whisperings of the spirit.

    Good Luck! You will figure it out!

    Jenny Hatch

  10. My husband is a natural athlete and excelled at every sport he tried. He focused on soccer because he loved it best. He played club soccer up until he made the high school soccer team. He was the goalie and was fabulous. However he had a run in with the coach (who thought he wasn't putting in enough extra time) and quit. He chose instead to play water polo and led them to the state championship that year.

    My point is, let her lead out and she will know when she is done and wants to try something else,or if she wants to continue. Most kids won't be good enough to get a college scholarship or be an olympic athlete, but it is good for them to have something they love and enjoy doing!

  11. I had this same struggle for many years until a G.A said in a stake conference, "Are we raising professional ball players and ballet dancers or fantastic missionaries and mothers."

    Man, did that hit home and I let the rest just be gravy. Guess there goes my "tiger mother" award 🙂

  12. This is my world exactly. I have a phone call scheduled this afternoon with the director of the soccer club discussing the same thing.

    My philosophy is yours too. I want my kids to be well rounded. We grew up with 7 kids, all (except me) played 3 sports, major summer camps and time commitments. Our lives were dictated by sports. It drove me crazy. I swore I wouldn't do the same thing with my kids.

    However, it seems like in order to play sports in our area -anything above recreation (in our area = casual but it means casual coaching too) they have to be involved in a major way. It seems as though everyone around here has their kids too committed and I"m not sure I want to go down that path.

    I think what you have to do is decide where her sports/gymnastics 'fits' with your family's goals. Will it help or will it hurt. Sometimes we don't know until we try it and realize it doesn't work for the family. On the flip side, maybe it will work fantastically and she'll have a good experience.

  13. I LOVE reading your blog. I hear myself in a lot of the things you post!

    When I was little, I was really good at two things: gymnastics and softball. I did them both, but never had the desire to pursue them to a 'professional' level. Even when I was little, even Claire's age, I knew that all I wanted to be was a wife and mom. I used my physical talents for my own enjoyment (kids need to get rid of energy in fun ways), but I knew it was not for me long-term. Claire may have more of an idea of what she wants than she has words to express. ?? Just a thought.

    Thanks for your blog! It helps me 🙂

  14. Really lovin' this post!

    I like how you've put A LOT of thought into this. You've tried to look at it from all angles. But this is still a tough one.

    Everyone parents differently.. and every child grows up differently. It's hard trying to literally have to guess sometimes at what will be best.

    For my son and I, I've found that letting him do whichever sport or activity HE wants to do at the time is best. One season its baseball, and the next it's chess. I figure as long as he's happy, then I can't be going wrong… well at least not TOO wrong =)

  15. I have loved your blog and these great comments too! I think for me the thing I try to remember {and I'm sure you do this better than I} is that Heavenly Father is indeed concerned with these seemingly small choices. And no definite answer means it's up to your family to decide and either choice will lead to learning and growth for your daughter and your family. Best of luck- and thanks for sharing so much on your blog. You are a blessing to more than you know.

  16. Sister Beck had an EXCELLENT article in the March ensign that got me thinking more about this. (Not that it entirely had to do with this topic.) Then our bishop had a combined meeting yesterday where the topic of family was addressed and how there are a lot of young adults who no longer want to marry or who are marrying later and later and who don't want families.

    Youth today are apparently wondering if they can make it in families and if they have the skills, etc. to have a successful family. I couldn't help thinking that some of these thoughts that they have would go away if we'd put the bulk of our energy into helping our children "discover" themselves as children of God and as family members. How can they learn these things and skills if they're always away from the home?

    Julie Beck's article really sunk some eternal truths about the family into my soul. That is our entire purpose for being here! We have so many distractions to choose from. I guess I have to agree with a lot of the other ladies – I choose things for my children that I think they can use in their later lives to bless the lives of THEIR children. I do put them in some sports, but we've learned after some trial and error to put them in sports that have a season that ends and won't take up so much of their life and time!

    I hope we've chosen correctly, too. It's a tough call.

  17. I am so grateful for another voice in defense of well rounded children. Because of my beliefs I know that I and my children will have an ETERNITY to continue to learn and grow. I think there will be plenty of time to perfect our talents! That said I am still working on making sure my children learn the process of learning and are exploring as much as they can here. We are on a journey right now to get back home. Anything else beyond accomplishing that is a gift. The majority of the world's population live only to sustain themselves. How blessed are we to be able to even have the opportunity to explore this world in a more detailed fashion. I do understand however that we walk a different path and balance on a tighrope between may choices. I remind myself often however to
    choose faith, that my best efforts and decisions for my children will work out in the end. Good luck!

  18. I have to leave a comment because my daughter chose gymnastics. She started when she was 8, she is now 17 and about to graduate from high school, she has competed for 9 years now finishing at level 8. She was never an Olympic contender but she has loved it and stuck with it all these years. She also tried piano, (4 years of lessons) she has been taking singing lessons this year and loves the theatre and drama class, but gymnastics has been her sport of choice and yes it has been time consuming and expensive, but I would not change these years for anything. As her mom I have been to every meet and every awards banquet. She is ready to move on but I think gymnastics has taught her so many things that I couldn't, about teamwork and dedication and commitment. If Claire has a passion for it, let her try, I don't think you'll be sorry.

  19. I think about this a lot! I was kind of like you…I did a little bit of everything, and I ended up being good at anything I tried. But as much as I love being able to dance, play piano, sing, run hurdles, AND do whatever else it is I do, I always wonder…if I would have focused more on piano, could I have gone to Juilliard? If I had really put more effort into track, could I have gotten a scholarship and still be running today?

    In the end, though, I look at my life and realize that even though some of these hypothetical alternatives are appealing, I like where I am. I like how I ended up. Sure, sometimes I wish I was the best pianist in Utah, but most days I am happy to be as good as I am knowing that I've gotten to have a lot of experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

    But it is something I wonder about a lot, especially when I think about how I'm going to parent my future children. Am I going to let them dabble in everything? Or should I encourage them to become really proficient at one thing?

  20. wow, apparently this struck a chord with a lot of people! you do know i have changed my thoughts about this, right shawn? it is complicated. but as i've grown up i have realized more and more how extraordinary it is to be ordinary at a lot of things. how awesome it is to be spread thin in this regard and exposed to lots. but it's tricky. i did always wish to be more surrounded in dance, but i also learned a LOT from finding my passion on my own and then working my butt off to be good enough since mom didn't make me not quit. so – there's lots of ways to think about it and in the end it will all work out i suppose. we can talk more about this in a couple weeks. i can't WAIT!!! love you so so much!

  21. I think it is so hard to know what the best route is for each child and each child is so different. One may be really good at one specific thing and take off with it at a young age and another might try a little of everything. I base my decisions being really prayerful about it and I also have each child pray for what is right for them and let them make the final decisions on what they want to do.
    I felt like I stressed to much about getting them involved and trying everything at a young age. I think kids can go through major burn out. I think you will know if Claire has a natural talent and if it is the right road for her. I want my kids to love whatever they are doing or it isn't worth the time.
    I think it is SO important to be well rounded even if you excell at one thing more than others. At some point in life whether you are a professional athlete or a concert pianist you will have to wear a different hat. I would never want to completely zone in on one area and miss out on learning in so many other ways. We also don't have any olympic potential over here so that is easy for me to say!

  22. I've seen parents push their children in activities and over time (typically by age 12-13) the child burns out and is done with it. I tend to go more with the approach of being well-rounded, but I also understand the importance of having a child learn the value of applying yourself to something, working really hard and reaping the benefits. I'm not sure what type of commitment you are looking at (do they make you commit for the entire year)? You can always try it and follow her lead. Is she LOVING it? Is she excited to go? If not, then maybe something with a little less commitment will do for now.

  23. wow lots to think about from this post! Totally agree with Erin, Pam, and Tammy's comments. Spot on! I think that this is a great chance for you to teach your kids about making choices and decisions about priorities. Obviously it will affect the entire family and it could be an opportunity for your family to learn more about the power of prayer, fasting, and working together to support each other. The key is to make sure that none of this overtakes and diminishes the most important things, their family and gospel living. If they get too into sports before they are even in high school they can easily lose sight of the importance of things like weeknight mutual, FHE, and Seminary. Sports and all the time they require really challenge that commitment to gospel living. All goes back to that balance things doesn't it! Hope that finger isn't broken and heals quickly! I had that happen a week before volleyball tryouts in high school. No fun!

  24. This post is exactly what I need. I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately and your insight is so helpful. It's like listening to my own thoughts, but yours are better organized and eloquent. My son is pretty good (okay I'll just say it– great) at tennis, but I wonder all the time whether or not that is even a good life direction for him. The pros/celebrity tennis players are likely no more happier than me, a stay at home *avereage* mom just doin' ordinary things, as evidenced by Agassi's latest book Open. So its hard to push or encourage my 9 year old in a direction of people who more or less turn out kinda strange; and many of them even hated their journey. I, like you, think there is no "one size fits all" for every child and the Spirit plays a huge role.

  25. You HAVE to READ "Outliers" – it's a GREAT perspective on this subject! I loved it. Thanks for sharing…it's great to know we all have similar challenges!

  26. Thank you for being so open about such a familiar struggle. If you are thinking about Tiger Mothers, I hope you've listened to the Conversation with Sister Beck and her daughters: http://radio.lds.org/programs/conversations-episode-15?lang=eng

    I can't stop thinking about her use of piano practice as work (since her children did not grow up on a farm)and how she wouldn't let her daughter give up because she knew her daughter was meant to teach.

    There are other ways that Claire could use her gymnastics training (even if she grows to be six feet tall and/or doesn't make it to the Olympics). Other sports (like cheerleading) may be open to her because she is conditioned for gymnastics.

    So, I would do whatever is right for your whole family right now, and then don't feel like it's a "forever" decision. You can adjust if you need to.

  27. When I said that you should do what's best for your whole family, I meant that you don't want any one of your children's activities to take over the schedule for your whole family–to disrupt the kind of FAMILY you want. Maybe that's why your mom didn't push your sister–because she was balancing a whole household.

    By the way, I think you are extraordinary even if you didn't "specialize" in something. Your kids will be too because they have such a great mom.

  28. As I start the process of raising my family (2 yr old sone, 1 yr old daughter so far), I really enjoy reading your blog, especially posts like this that help me as I agonize over how to do the best for my children! I really love how much thought you put into everything…I do, too and it makes me feel less "crazy"!

    In this case, I would let her try, I think and see how much it does for her. Does she jump at the chance to go to each class or is she dragging her feet?

  29. If she has found her "passion" in life this early on…more power to her. Many of us, kids/adults, have a hard time deciding what we are passionate about. Sometimes that "passion" is being a "jack of many trades" as you were. Sometimes it is more specific. I think as long as she loves it AND it works with the family dynamic, go for it!

  30. I feel for you…it's a source of contention for my husband and myself. I would let my 10-year old take baseball to the max (he's really good!) and my hubby doesn't want him to because it will overtake our lives… What does your Dave think about gymnastics? 🙂

  31. Hi there. I love your blog…it is wonderful to read and very inspiring. I can also really relate to this post, because my parents had to make a similar choice with me when I was 8. I started gymnastics at 3 and was competing by 8 (this was a LONG time ago, we didn't start quite as early then with competition). Shortly after I began competing my coach sat my folks down and told them that I had the potential to be quite good…or she could leave me alone and just let me enjoy my time as a gymnast…progress at my own pace and focus on fun. My parents agonized over the decision and ultimately asked her to let me just have fun. I still competed, I still trained 9 hours or so a week, but I set my own agenda. Looking back 30 years later and as a mother now myself I have absolutely no regrets about their choice. Those years of gymnastics (I stopped at 13) instilled in me a love of sport and a faith in the strength and ability of my own body. It also helped me feel empowered to choose my own path. Almost of my friends who were more seriously involved in sport at that age are now completely NOT involved in sport…I, on the other hand, went on to play ice and field hockey, lacrosse, crew and then became a runner. I have been a lifelong athlete and see no end in sight.
    Gymnastics is a hard sport. If Claire is going to be taller than about 5'4" she will eventually be told she is too tall, so if she is completely invested in the sport that could be heartbreaking. It is also a sport that, when practiced at a high level can really wreak havoc on girls bodies (and body images) at critical times in their development. I am certainly not anti-gymnastics, and I would not presume to tell you (a truly outstanding mother) what to do here, but I will tell you that the greatest gift I received from my years as a young athlete was really the freedom to have it just be "play" at that age.
    Sorry so long, but I do hope that helps you in some way!

  32. Oh my word, i am SOOO grateful for all these insightful comments. Man alive I learn a bunch from this blog! Here are a few more details:

    –Claire has asked to quit gym a few times. She's not head-over-heels in love with it. But when I told her this new class would be tougher with a better coach she got excited. She wants a challenge. I think she'd like it because she's a competitive kid. But if I told her let's quit and do tennis instead she'd be just as happy. SO why do I even think about it? It's all the Tiger Mother and my little sister's fault 🙂 I feel a little bit like part of my job as the mother is to push her a little bit, especially if it takes her out of her comfort zone. ("We do hard things")

    –Although I see some good potential in Claire, I do not see super competitive gymnastics in our future. If she gets good enough I could see her doing some meets and competing to a small degree, but to be honest I don't think I personally have what it takes to get her physically to the places she needs to be if she's going to get to the point of being a gymnast prodigy. Is that horrible or what? The truth is that I have five other children, one with special needs (and a husband I like to see once in a while 🙂 and they all need help with this and that. I can't physically be there that much for every one of them. I believe that it takes sacrifice to specialize and push yourself and your family at times, but there is a balance. I don't believe in sacrifice if it's your family time you are sacrificing over and over again.

    –Yes, she will be tall. But there is something to be said about the work ethic involved with going for more serious classes whether or not you feel that your child will truly be extraordinary at what she gets pushed in. Yes, she may realize when she hits the 5'8" threshold that this isn't going to work (if we even decided to push it that long). But would that mean all that conditioning has been a waste? Certainly not. She would learn SO much from it. I'm just not so sure this is the right thing to learn the work ethic in for her.

    –Claire, unlike my other children by this age, hasn't tried a whole lot of things. Being the fourth child has kind of led to more "free-time" as I drive the carpools around for the older kids. Part of me wants to let her try a bunch of other things.

    I could go on and on about this, but I must sign off. Just wanted to leave a little more food for thought. I'm SO thankful for all those wise, insightful people out there for sending words of wisdom! Please don't stop if you have more!

  33. We are faced with a ten yr old who has been taking dance since 3yrs old. (She was the oldest of our 4 girls so we could.) We are struggling to know what to do because we started something my daughter enjoys which started out okay but we are wondering what we've gotten ourselves into.

    We stopped competing 2 yrs ago because we felt it was too much with violin and summer swimming, golf camps, etc. My daughter still spends almost 6 hrs a week at the studio and while it is run by women of our particular faith, we are facing some challenging problems.

    For 6 hrs a week we are turning her over to the influence of the studio. They are taking over a big part of her thoughts and development. With this activity body image is huge. I see these young women staring at themselves in the mirror for hours a day and I wonder if this is really good? Our daughter – who is the sweetest – has told us that multiple girls talk about being fat and some are on a "diet". ARG! They range from 8-12 yrs! I don't want my girl caught up in that.

    We try to teach the gospel in our home the best we can, we want to show faith and place trust that our daughter can be in the world and stand up and be strong but we also know Satan is real and we are torn with the influence this is on her.

    The other issue is all or none. We pulled her out two years ago from the "company" team. She dances because she enjoys it and we want this opportunity for her to develop this skill but still want her to enjoy other things and we have hit a point where we are looking to the future and it's either all or none! If we continue this path of not being on a competing level are we setting her up to be isolated… she's not part of the team but spend 6 hrs at dance (more as she grows in age and skill) so her time with friends is taken. Those girls at dance are her friends but as she grows and the field is whittled away to those who live and breath it, will our daughter have a place?

    We have always tried to put more emphasis on skills that will benefit future family and the building up of the kingdom. Concerning motherhood, if they teach violin or piano they are still in the home, not so with dance. Music can benefit a ward and help further the work. We look at dance and sports as exercise and while they are important we don't want our children getting too caught up in body image – I think it is a huge ploy Satan uses right now! OR also teaching them that their time is all about THEM and their personal enjoyment because lets face it – focus can turn to selfishness in an adult.

    After this novel, (which I wrote twice cause something happened and it didn't post the first go), I'd just say IF Claire does it and LOVES it and it becomes her life until she's 18 are you okay with it — because you have to be prepared for that.

  34. Oh yeah! One more thing 🙂 …..My daughter did gymnastics at that age and was asked to go to "team". More hours, more money. I loved the idea, husband said no way. So, that was easy for me. We kept her in gymn. a year or so longer, and she still was challenged to keep trying and doing more things. BUT gymn. gave her body some pretty amazing upper body strength and endurance. Which now, almost high school, she is involved with pole vault and cross country running/track. If she would have stuck with gymn. team, she would have never had the time to find these "new" things. Team gymn. can be pretty consuming, no time for anything else. So, looking back, I am grateful for gymn. it sorta prepped her for these amazing things that are in her life, now as we speak. Good luck in your decision. What does hubby think?

  35. Shawni, I commented before in this subject. We struggled with the same thing with Lindsay. And SHE TOO had an injury that had quite coincidental timing – a broken big toe injury that took her out from thanksgiving to christmas. Never in a million years did I think that injury was a gift. But it was as that toe was healing that she had her personal breakdown and discovery that basically she didn't want to choose gymnastics over all other options – playtime, family time, homework, other activities.

    It has taken a couple of months but she is very happy with her decision. And I couldn't be more proud of her for recognizing it on her own. She will now get to play soccer again in the fall, which she gave up because of 6-9 hours of gymnastics. She just started spring tennis lessons. Which she never could have done with gymnastics. And all the money we have saved on gymnastics tuition is helping us plan to buy a piano…which we have wanted to do for ages but didn't have the budget for.

    I really get where you are coming from – average vs extraordinary. I thank my parents all the time for allowing me to try everything from dance to softball to soccer to figure skating to piano to whatever. We found that we as a family adored figure skating and did that for years. But I was always sad when other activities had to drop from the radar because of the time and money devoted to that one sport.

    At the age of 14 I had the same realization my very mature 9 year old daughter did and we all quit cold turkey. Skating was a wonderful experience but also it didn't get me a college scholarship, to the Olympics or anything dramatic. Luckily I had always kept up with soccer so I still had "my thing", it was just a different thing.

    I always vowed that I wouldn't let my family get caught up in the career sport mode, instead letting them try many things. Gymnastics sort of was sneaky that way. I really didn't like what it was doing to the family but I saw her talent, saw how happy she was, and I kept trying to figure out a way to make it work. Finally, it was my daughter who helped bring it all back into perspective.

    Now I feel more freedom to try more things and be more well-rounded but not stacking our schedule so bad that we don't have time to eat. Or play. Or have FHE. I like it better this way.

  36. So, you don't know me, but here are my thoughts anyway. Go ahead and try it out for a while. If it works with your family dynamics and doesn't put too much pressure on everyone, encourage her to keep it up and do her best.

    Your sister has some good points, but think about it like this. Maybe she will excel in gymnastics for a while and then want to try something new. But the time she spent training her body and excelling in gymnastics will go toward skills and strength that she can point in another direction later. She will learn discipline. She will learn that good things come with practice. She will gain a strong, flexible, and healthy body and good stamina. So maybe a few years down the road she will want to do something different. All the things that she learned and the strong body she gained in that more difficult gym class will go towards helping her reach new goals in soccer, dance, volleyball, or even something completely different like acting in musicals. The skills are so transferable! She still has choices, and she will be more prepared to be successful all around.

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