Getting Real With Shadra Bruce


Even before your first child is born, you spend time thinking about everything you want them to accomplish: the sports you would like them to play, the careers they could pursue, how amazing their life will be. Extracurricular activities in particular have an emphasis, as there is some notion that children must be constantly stimulated and the earlier you start molding them into their future selves the better.

Please stop.

While we totally believe in fostering the talents and desires each child has, the child should be the guide. With Kira, it was cheerleading, which lasted through college. Parker has been drumming since before he could walk, and by the time he was six, he had his own drum set. His love of music has grown, and over time he has been given a keyboard and guitars. This year he has decided to pack up the drums and focus exclusively on guitar. We may have pictured him as a famous drummer, but he has other plans (and given the reputation of drummers being the first one to go in a band, I’m ok). Parker takes guitar lessons, and he wants to be a musician. He is motivated and dedicated to achieving this goal, but it was his, not ours. Anika has wanted to learn ballet since she was a toddler, but rather than start with formal lessons, we bought her a Bella Dancerella for Christmas when she was little, and then another. When it was clear this was not just a passing fancy for her, we enrolled her in a weekly ballet lesson. She is now in her sixth year.

But it always broke my heart to go to Anika’s dance studio and see little two-year-old girls being forced to take dance lessons by moms who might have been fulfilling their own missed opportunity, when it was clear all the child really wanted to do was play with the toys in the lobby of the dance studio. It doesn’t take too long for children to resent mandatory lessons, but what is even more unfortunate is parents who place undue pressure on a child to succeed. It can quickly turn something that was previously enjoyable into a nightmare.

When children are young, they really don’t need to be occupied with appointments and sessions every day. Most are pretty content with a large cardboard box and their imaginations. Kids simply need the time and space to be creative and they’ll discover their own joys in life.