Recently, I had a conversation with two coworkers about how to embezzle from our company. As soon as we realized that any one of us would turn in the other two to human resources, the focus quickly went to the outrageous costs and obligations of children’s activities … which is why we were discussing the need for embezzlement in the first place.
A parent’s attitude toward their children’s activities is a strange one.
On one hand, you want your kid involved in different things to learn about teamwork, the value of camaraderie to accomplish goals. You want them to be active and healthy, and hope they’ll find some hidden talent or some skill they can excel at and master, and, if you’re lucky, have it pay their way through college.
On the other hand, you don’t want to pay too much for it, you don’t want it to consume too much of your time and, while you're considering those things, you might as well wish for a unicorn whose urine can double as unleaded gasoline.
A perfect example is getting your kids involved in dance.
You have to pay for lessons, clothing and accessories, and take them to dance practice, but the real fun is the recital.
For a recital, you have to pay for a dance outfit, pay for tickets, buy flowers and gifts for the little dancer following the production, and you’re required to sit through four hours of a recital for three minutes of watching your kid on stage.
I’m not just criticizing dance; there are similar frustrations with sports and other activities, so I might as well enrage everyone I can with this week’s column.
Admit it, there’s nothing like looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home to prepare for the mental and physical torture that is the work week. Then you learn that not only does your kid have a softball, soccer, football or a pogo-stick jousting match, but it’s a doubleheader. Then you find yourself wishing it would rain, so you can fully enjoy your day.
That’s the sick level of guilty misery that comes with wanting to avoid those activities, secretly hoping a torrential thunderstorm, tornado or a plague from the Bible would make your weekend perfect. Don't deny it.
That being said, you can’t complain too much in front of your kid to make it look like you loathe the activity they’re pursuing to the point where they feel guilty about playing ball or taking dance or Sasquatch hunting. Conversely, you don’t want to lie to them and make them think taking part in those activities is what’s fueling your will to live.
Another factor is your child revealing they no longer enjoy the sport or activity anymore and want to quit.
I know there will be times where a parent struggles with believing that maybe having their kids become quitters once or twice can’t be all that bad, but take into consideration the future where they quit jobs to be professional squatters in their parent's basement.
At that point, you want to kneel down in front of them at eye level and say, “It took a lot of guts to tell me you hate Extreme Marco Polo at the YMCA, and I just want to say that I hate it, too! We finally have something in common!”
In reality, the parental response is more like, “Oh no, no, no. We didn’t pay $1,800 for lacrosse equipment for you to quit halfway through your first match! Now stop whining, put your shoulder back in its socket and hobble back out there!”
The whole thing is a complex balancing act that even The Flying Wallendas would have trouble achieving.
That’s why, when you’re having the same eye-to-eye conversation with your kid, you need to tell them while they’re obligated to their team and they have to go, they don’t need to bother giving 110% for something they hate. Instead, just give 10%, and they can feel free to pick lint out of their bellybutton while fly balls and grounders pass by them.
There’s no way a coach will kick a kid off a team because of the parental repercussions that would follow, but you can finally have fun by confusing and angering the coach and other parents by cheering your kid on while telling them the truth, thus creating a bond.
“I’m proud of you, kid! Now pick that lint! Pick that lint!”
What I’m trying to say is that while you may say I’m a horrible parent and a miserable human being, at least I’m not stealing from work...now that my kid’s softball season is over.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.