Chicago dad shares child’s eagerness to extracurricular activities

We sign our kids up for a little of everything these days. Optimistic take: Our children are receiving a wider array of experiences than any previous generation. Pessimistic take: We’re raising a generation of dabblers.

So, what happens when we notice—in the whirlwind of chauffeuring of our kids from Capoeira camp to Scrimshaw workshop to Khoomei lessons—that the child has taken a deeper interest in something? My daughter Viva is 7, and while she’s previously expressed some level of interest in every possible activity save for soccer, she now seems genuinely fascinated by theater and wants to go beyond the occasional short class and, well, “do the work.”

What are the costs of moving beyond dilettantism?

It means trading absolute well-roundedness for specific expertise. As someone who lives and works in the performing arts world, I’m thrilled that she has an interest in the craft, not just in the ego-gratification of tiptoeing the boards. She wants to achieve mastery, something satisfying, soulful, potentially lucrative and sorely lacking in our drive-by society.

It also means cost, literal and emotional. Supporting a child turning an enrichment in to a way of life means more lessons, longer camps farther away, equipment and it means becoming that parent who is always in the stands, or on the sidelines, or in the audience. It means becoming a shoulder to cry on when a role isn’t obtained or a note is cracked or dialogue goes up–because when you care about winning at something, it hurts more to lose.

For us, it could be worse. I have friends whose children play travel sports, and they seem to be rushing to a different city every day to sit on hot bleachers and eat mediocre encased meats. I know someone whose daughter plays the harp–that requires an entire van for transport, not to mention a musical instrument the size of a refrigerator. 

Our biggest challenge will be watching plays every weekend without checking our phones. Oof, maybe I liked it better when she just dabbled.

Viva Devotion. Viva Viva. Viva Daddy.

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This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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