I never started my kids in peewee hockey because I knew where it would lead. A cute little kid sliding on his bottom across the ice once a week soon becomes a toothless brute checking his opponents into the glass on Sunday mornings wearing hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. I didn’t want to end up there, so it was easier to not begin. It’s not that peewee hockey was wrong for my kids. I would have loved to see them learn to skate and slide around on the ice. It would’ve been loads of fun. We could have afforded a season or two and the equipment that goes along with it. We would have really enjoyed it. But, we knew that once a kid falls in love with hockey it’s a downhill run toward a life obsessed with hockey. We’ve seen it in friends and we didn’t want to end up there; so we didn’t start.
We’re soccer obsessed instead. Little N started as a five year old kicking a tiny ball into a tiny net, and before we knew it we’re at soccer fields 5 days a week, playing soccer outdoors when the weather is nice and indoors in the winter. We’re at tournaments, watching pros on tv, and enjoying the smell of sweaty shin guards and cleats in the hall closet. What starts as a cute and fun experience quickly expands into an obsession. I love every minute of it. I knew I would, and I knew what I was getting into from the beginning.
Early on we made a choice based on where we saw the future heading. We knew that entry into a sport was just the beginning, and that once one goes all in it’s a new world. Time, energy, focus, and enjoyment are all invested. What starts out as a small experience quickly snowballs into something much bigger.
Parents know this. Open the door a crack and soon the side of the house seems to be blown wide open. One video game leads to hours spent in front of the tv. A cell phone for emergency use becomes an unlimited texting and data plan. A free ticket to the fair for summer reading leads to a hundred dollars spent on parking, food, rides, and games. Parents live this every day.
Parents who want to maintain a sense of household control learn to set boundaries. We’ll go to the amusement park, but we’ll set a budget and won’t spend a dime over it no matter how much you whine or complain. We’ll go to the beach, but we’re leaving at 3:00, no later. Setting boundaries helps our kids to know how far we’re willing or able to go with life experiences.
Some parents get into hockey and set a boundary at the number of hours they’ll spend or the cost of the equipment they’re willing to spend. Once the boundary is reached they pull back. We chose to invest our time and money into soccer instead. We set boundaries around Sunday mornings. No games or practices on Sunday mornings except three tournaments a year. The other 49 weeks you’ll be in worship. Soccer won’t interfere with schoolwork, music lessons, confirmation, or being healthy. It works for us, and the kids know the boundaries.
Often one can look at an experience and see the potential for where it is heading. If you as the parent don’t like where it’s going, don’t get started. If you know where it’s going and are ok with it for a while, draw a boundary and let your kids know how far is too far. This might be true with movie or video game content. You might be willing for your kids to watch a G or PG movie, but not PG-13 or greater. Draw a line and stick by it. Maybe you’re willing to let your kids watch some tv each day, but don’t want them spending all their free time in front of it. Set a time limit and stick by it. Will the kids try to push the boundary? Absolutely! My boys still try to get me to serve ice cream for breakfast on a regular basis. I’ve drawn the line at sugary cereal, and ice cream only on special occasions. (Yes, I’m not a perfect parent!)
I didn’t want to do the hockey thing so we didn’t start. This is why we don’t do Halloween. I know where Halloween leads, and while dressing up in fun costumes and getting candy is fun for everybody, it’s easier for our family to not enter the cracked door. In a case like Halloween with bloody zombies and demonic activity down the path I’d rather not even get started. Other families are more confident in making a boundary. Just be sure to know the boundary and make it clear to your kids before you start down the road because the snowball happens quickly.
This discussion of the snowballing of life experiences from little commitment to deep involvement can apply to many areas of life. People will often wake up in the middle of a snowball of events rolling ever faster down a treacherous path and wonder how it all began. An innocent hug leads to an affair. Just one party experiment with a friend’s drug of choice leads to jail time. As a pastor I see people in the middle of the snowball and wish I would’ve been there earlier to help teach about making healthy boundaries. As a parent I want to be committed in helping my kids learn to draw healthy boundaries in all areas of life.
Call me overprotective. I’ll tell you I’m lazy. My way is just easier. If I know where something leads and I don’t want to end up there it’s easier to stay off the path. So we don’t do Halloween or Hockey in my house because I don’t like where they lead. I’d rather be at the soccer field this afternoon, and tomorrow, and the next…
* This post was inspired by an article describing the ‘slippery slope’ of opening the door for ‘medical care’ in the form of euthanasia. You can read the article here.