“You need to pick between cheerleading and show choir.”
Those nine words dictated my entire high-school experience. They determined the people I would meet, the friendships I would form, and the high-school memories I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
You see, I wasn’t raised by my mom and dad. I was raised by my grandma and great aunt, then later by my uncle and aunt.
It was near the end of 7th grade when my grandma passed away and I moved in with my uncle and aunt. At that time, I was a cheerleader for my school and taking chorus as an elective.
I had a promising shot at making the 8th grade show choir, and that was the first disappointment my uncle and aunt hit me with. They told me I couldn’t try out for show choir because of the after-school commitment. Watching my friends join the 8th grade show choir without me was my first real heartbreak.
As 8th grade ended, I started mentally preparing to begin high school, promised to be the best years of my life! As cheerleading tryouts approached, I was hit with another blow: I had to pick between cheerleading and chorus.
I truly couldn’t believe it. I was devastated.
But being raised on southern manners, I knew I needed to respect their wishes. Truthfully, I had no choice. But I had to trust that if they said I couldn’t do both, then that meant they had exhausted all efforts to try and make them both happen for me, but just couldn’t.
Now, as an adult with two kids, I know that was a lie. I know they could have made it happen. I know I could have participated in both activities. It was their decision for me not to participate in both.
To be honest, I totally get it.
We overexert ourselves, so we are exhausted. We are involved in more things now in our 20’s and 30’s than our parents and caretakers were at that age.
Because of this, looking back, I know they had the time to make it work… they just chose not to, because they didn’t want to.
Just Let Them Sign Up for Sports Already.
We are approaching summer, which means we’re trying to find things to occupy our children’s time. We need them safe, but also entertained. We want to find the best activities for kids, but at the lowest cost.
For many parents working full-time, like myself, the summer is not an exciting time. It’s just like the school year, only with more logistics to work out. It’s exhausting. We look forward to our 1-2 vacation weeks out of the summer but other than that, it is business more-complicated-than usual.
In a blended family, regardless of the season, things can get pretty squirrely when it comes time for the kids to sign up for sports or activities.
This often means we are trying to navigate school, holidays, vacation weeks, perhaps multiple custody arrangements, and – the most important one – who’s-doing-what on whose days, and who is paying for all of it?
Parents who share custody have a laundry list of considerations when it comes to the schedule. We are constantly trying to find ways to maximize our time with the kids. When the kids sign up for sports, we anticipate it turning into our worst nightmare.
The Sign-Up Struggle
If you share custody, then this situation may sound familiar to you:
Parent A tells Parent B that their child wants to sign up for volleyball. Some dates will fall on Parent A’s time, and some dates fall on Parent B’s time.
Parent B is certain that it’s Parent A who wants the child in volleyball, not the child. Parent B tells Parent A that if Parent A wants the child to participate in volleyball, then Parent A will be paying for it.
Parent B also tells Parent A that if the child has volleyball during Parent B’s scheduled time, then there will be an exchange of X amount of days to be returned back to Parent B for time interrupted by sports.
The parents text back and forth for weeks about it. In the end, either Parent A bites the bullet and adheres to Parent B’s demands, or they miss the deadline to register because they never came to an agreement.
This situation is more than upsetting because all it does is hurt the child.
The child misses out on something she wants to do because the adults in her life can’t get along.
The child experiences unnecessary stress because her parents are exposing them to childish and petty dramatics.
The child suffers. Not Parent B for “losing time” the adult didn’t want to lose, or Parent A for arguing with Parent B about it. The parents are not the victims here. The child is.
The Bottom Line
The custody schedule does not dictate mom’s time versus dad’s time. The custody schedule dictates the child’s time. Nowhere in the custody laws does it say the opinion of your child shouldn’t matter.
When I reflect on my childhood, I remember the things I didn’t get to do. I do not care if they had a good reason to not let me participate in both activities… what I care about is that I didn’t get to do both.
I reflect on the things I missed out on. I reflect on the choices they made for me, and the opportunities they took from me.
As parents, we always need to consider the big picture. What long-term effect will our actions have on our children?
I urge you to go out on a limb and let your child do the things the child wants to do, no matter why (or how badly) you disagree. Let her go to the summer camp. Let her sign up for sports. Let her take piano lessons.
Put your differences aside with your co-parent(s), and just sign the child up, for crying out loud! If you have the means to provide these things, then just register already.
If you allow yourself to get caught up in a battle of wits with the other household, the child will suffer. They will remember that you made them miss out forever. They will remember that you made a selfish decision… trust me.
Put your ego aside, forget about the custody agreement, child support, or holiday logistics, and just make it happen. Don’t give your stepchildren something else to add to the good ol’ list of resentments. Just let them sign up for sports already.
P.S. For those curious, I picked chorus and thankfully, I don’t regret it!
P.S.S. If you’re still working out your summer logistics, here’s a list of inexpensive summer activities to do with the kids that you’ll actually enjoy!