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Forcing the Kids Into Extracurriculars

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My kid's a lazy shit and by lazy I mean at age 7, she emphatically refuses to take any weekend classes or after-school electives. A Saturday can sometimes devolve into a morning of declaring, "I'm not leaving the house!" As usual, her refusal to do anything new makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong as a mom.

Preschool piano was a success because she was too young to know better. We eased into kindergarten cooking class under the spell of a new school and the fact that all of her friends were doing it. There was also the lure of simply walking to the school kitchen. No special driving routes or uniforms. Anything that involved leaving the house on those lazy Saturdays or—god forbid—involving physical activity, has always been verboten. Or rather, the cause of an anxiety attack.

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Still, I always imagined our Saturdays would be spent cartwheeling to gymnastics, pirouetting to ballet or suiting up in those adorable little sport uniforms. So when the email came in about T-ball season last year, I checked in with Aria first, promptly overrode her “No” and signed her up, stat. Her dad and I discussed “to push or not to push” ad nauseum, and I won that one with some pretty solid rationales like, “She just doesn’t know that she doesn’t like it!” Aria’s T-ball tenure ended before it began, and that was my first and last $150 dollar lesson learned. We never made it to one session.

When 1st grade started last September, Aria and I checked out a short list of after-school offerings. She already stays late, so big deal passing the time with 45 minutes learning guitar, cooking, soccer or dramatic play, right? Not according to Aria. After the T-ball debacle, I decided not to push this time. I had great self-reasoning to qualify my feelings of guilt about her resistance, thinking there’s nothing wrong with decompressing after an intense day of school with unstructured free time. I may have even thrown in some stats from a recent parenting class I had taken with Hand in Hand Parenting about "navigating the emotional life of your child and tuning deeply into their needs."

While Aria’s friends are scheduled around the clock, we’re not doing squat.

So 1st grade has been punctuated by our non-doing. There’s no cooking, no dance, no drama, no sports, no gymnastics; and while Aria’s friends are scheduled around the clock, we’re not doing squat. Except for one thing: piano. I decided that for this, she will not have a choice.

I was so determined to make this work that I’ve bribed her with the promise of a Barbie Dream House down the line that costs as much as my rent. I explained that we are working on follow-through, and I figured the best way was to maximize Aria’s comfort level with private lessons. Even then she whined, "If you taught me, mommy, I'd do it!" So then I told her I would learn along with her.

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And here we are, in our second month and on our third teacher. I can say with complete honesty ... she is totally going through the motions. Piano class means Aria going mute, clinging to me, staring and refusing to answer challenging questions like, “How are you?” I think our teacher is ready to fire us, but I’m not giving up. I’m pushing through this time and making gigantic fusses when she reaps the enormous rewards of playing a song and reading music.

She’s getting it simply by doing it. I’m doing my best to hold to my commitment not to back out of our commitment. I too, am learning how to push myself into the new territory of pushing. And pushing through the discomfort of that. If anything, one of us will be able to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

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