This is my first attempt at writing for a blog, so please, set your expectations low and take it easy on me. In the grand scheme of things, I am a rookie at this parenting thing. I’m figuring it out as I go (or possibly making it up as I go) and I by no means have it all figured out. But, then again, no one does. I am the father of two young children: a 3-year-old daughter and a son who is a little over 1-years-old. They certainly keep my wife and I busy . . . and entertained.
The topic I was given is a difficult one: “Fear of Missing Out vs. Joy of Missing Out? How much activity is best?” I feel like this is very subjective and varies with every child (and every parent). The easy answer is that the answer depends on the kid. But, something else occurred to me when I was writing: this topic could be viewed two-ways . . . the parent’s point of view and the child’s point of view. So, I decided to write about that.
Both of our kids have a serious case of Fear of Missing Out, or as we like to call it, FOMO. They always think they are missing out on something, or that someone else is doing something fun they are missing out on. For our oldest, this has led to issues getting her to sleep or dropping her off at daycare. We’ve tried to convince her we aren’t doing anything fun after she goes to bed . . . unless you consider meal-prepping for the next day or washing dishes fun. Recently, my wife took our daughter to a dentist appointment and dropped her off at daycare afterwards. That led to a meltdown because my daughter wanted to stay with my wife. My wife is an accountant and tried to explain to our daughter absolutely nothing fun was going to happen when she was at work. Her words fell upon deaf ears because my daughter KNEW she was missing out on something.
At the same time, we try not to cram-pack our free time with activities. I think this is where the Joy of Missing Out comes into play. At this stage in the game, we’ve limited our kids’ activities to mainly just swim lessons. My wife has done some mom and baby yoga a handful of times, but we don’t want to overwhelm them. Actually, if we’re being honest, we don’t want to overwhelm us. We would much rather have a family dinner at home and go for a walk or watch a movie than spend two hours at a 3-year-old t-ball practice. I’m not knocking other parents, because I would never do that (see the statement above about it varying with every child and parent). But, you won’t find me at any sort of organized sport activity for at least 5 more years. I don’t have the patience to sit and watch. For me, that is the joy of missing out (for parents and for kids). I think this FOMO for parents sometimes leads to overwhelming schedules and burnt-out kids.
It occurred to me that we, as parents, have a case of FOMO as well. At least I know I do. We don’t want to miss out on the amazing things our kids do. We don’t want to miss out on fun they’re having, e.g., first words, first steps, seeing their personalities develop. The reality is we cannot be there for absolutely everything. When my wife tells me she was playing with our son and he said, “sister,” I spend the next 10 minutes trying to get him to re-create the moment because I don’t want to miss that moment.
In closing, I will fall back on my original assessment, i.e., “How much activity is best?” depends on the child and the situation. It is important to find that balance. We try to let our kids be who they are and do what they want to do. To that end, I think it is important to let them try what they want to try. But, I also think it is important to make them finish what they start. Lastly, we try really hard not to make our kids participate in something that they don’t want to do. To that end, I don’t think you should make a kid do an activity just because you want them to do it. I think that is parental FOMO and that has the potential to turn out badly.
Clayton Ballard is the father of two small children. He is also a Good Dads board member and an attorney for Great Southern Bank. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.