|Caitlin & Ieuan|
I find that I struggle to arrange play dates with their close friends because we're often fully booked up which seems, to me, to be entirely the wrong way around.
I'm not disputing the value of after school activities. They are great for teaching our kids physical and social skills, helping them to make new friends and keeping them occupied in the 'arsenic hours' of 4-6 pm.
But leaving aside the cost of these activities, not only in terms of class fees, uniforms and insurance, there's also the time and cost of taxiing to and fro.
I know some kids who are so booked up that they are doing several activities on school nights. Already their parents are wearing that "how long till half term" expression and have their car keys permanently in their hand like a rookie get-away driver.
When does anyone find the time to do homework? Or simply relax with the family?
I sometimes suspect that after school activities are a brilliant way to postpone the job of parenting which, for all of us, is sometimes stressful and pretty darn challenging.
Equally likely is that after school activities help occupy our kids whilst their parents are at work. Who has the luxury of leaving work at 4 pm? Very few.
When I was young, I went swimming in our local pool occasionally and I had a ballet lesson (just the one), every Saturday morning. My mother has never learned to drive so my sister and I had to go when dad could take us - which was weekends only.
Other activities had to be within walking distance such as our local Brownie pack.
Now, too, it seems that kids are pushed to be experts in whatever activity they undertake.
Perhaps I'm just a hopeless under-achiever. After all, I used to like playing Left Back in hockey only because my initials were on the bib (I was Linda Brooks in those days) and there was seldom any danger of coming into contact with the ball. At least, the way I played.
What happened to doing an activity because you like it?
I think sometimes we push our children too much.
I asked Caitlin the other day whether she wanted to change her after school activities and her reply was very telling.
"Really", she said, "all I want to do is spend more time with my family".
How many other children are feeling the same way?