The Benefits of Quitting
One mom shares her experience with the positive side of quitting as part of the Care.com Interview Series
Amber Dusick is a quitter - at least when it comes to anything that doesn't make her or her kids happy. As a mother of two, the Parenting: Illustrated With Crappy Pictures author and illustrator says that if something isn't fulfilling, why force yourself (or worse, your kids) to suffer through it? See why this mom believes in having the freedom to explore new things without the pressure and figuring out what works for your own family.
Tell us about your family and your blog.
I have a husband and two boys who are nearly six and nearly three. I write and illustrate a humor blog called Crappy Pictures where I share parenting (and other) stories about our lives.
What types of activities do your kids participate in? How active are your kids and family?
My eldest son has taken swimming lessons, drum lessons, music classes, dance classes, horsemanship classes and he was in t-ball for the first time this spring. We were also part of a family run co-op preschool and later part of a homeschool co-op that met weekly at a park. More than structured classes elsewhere though, we are always doing something interesting as a family, like museums, trips, hiking, art projects or just exploring a new place.
What is your personal philosophy on quitting?
I love quitting! At least when I'm quitting something that isn't making me happy. It is very liberating and empowering to admit that something just isn't fulfilling for you and to let go of it. I'm not one to suffer through something just because I started it unless I see a benefit. Life is too short to be unhappy.
Have you ever felt that your kids are doing too much? How do you determine how many and which activities your kids are enrolled in?
I haven't ever felt like they were doing too much. We don't have our days pre-filled, we have a lot of freedom. If anything, I worry that we do too little, especially after talking with a friend of mine who has nearly every waking hour scheduled with fun stuff. But this works for us and that works for her and finding that balance for each family is what matters.
My kids pick the activities they are interested in. So far (they are still young, so who knows what the future holds) they haven't actually wanted to do more than one thing at a time. The classes chosen were all based on a particular interest at that time.
Growing up, how did your parent(s) handle quitting an activity/sport/class?
My mom has the same philosophy as me about finding what makes you happy. There is no reason to stick something out if it makes you miserable. I quit tons of things because I tried tons of things. Having that freedom without any pressure behind it allowed me to explore and really figure myself out. I hope I can do that for my own children.
Have your children expressed a desire to quit an activity or sport before? What was your response?
My eldest took drum lessons for several months and then decided he didn't like it anymore. So he quit. It wasn't a good teacher match for him and he went from playing his drums every day to not wanting to play them at all after a few months of lessons. Of course we were supportive of him quitting! We saw how it was ruining something he had previously enjoyed. We had already paid for a certain number of weeks but we let him quit anyway. We didn't see a point in forcing him just because we couldn't get a refund. We wouldn't have gotten our money's worth if he was miserable; that would have done more harm than good.
On the other hand, he also expressed wanting to quit t-ball after he got hurt during one of the games. (Not badly, he hurt his finger trying to catch a ball.) In that particular example, I knew it was due to fear of getting hurt again, it wasn't that he wasn't enjoying himself. Up until that point, he was thrilled to go to each practice and game. I knew I needed to help him work through his fears, I didn't want his fears to get in the way of something he actually does enjoy. We practiced catching at home more often. We talked about what happened and how he could avoid it in the future. And by the time the next practice arrived he wanted to go and he finished the season. So this was an example where he just needed a little support and encouragement.
At what point have you or do you feel it's ok to let your kids quit?
Honestly, I think it is probably always okay. At least if they gave it a shot and sincerely wanted to quit because they weren't getting anything positive from it. My kids take classes based on their own interests because they WANT to. If a class isn't working out for them and it makes them miserable, who would it benefit to force them to continue?
There are some who believe that not letting your child quit an activity is a learning experience in and of itself. Do you agree or disagree with this?
I'm sure it is a learning experience. There are lots of learning experiences. When you are forced to do something that you don't want to do it is a learning experience. It teaches you that you are powerless and that your own interests don't matter. Plus, it probably makes the child less willing to try something new again for fear of being forced to continue even if they hate it. Yay?
What tips can you give parents of children who are expressing a desire to quit?
Find out why they want to quit and really listen. It is their life. Grant them the space to explore their own interests and to discover themselves. Maybe quitting something will open a space for something else to grow and blossom.
What lessons, if any, have your family learned from quitting (or not quitting)?
I wouldn't say we've learned any lessons in particular, other than that we've simply reinforced that our kids are free to follow their own interests and that we'll support that.
This is a terribly anti-climatic ending, I know. I could spend hours sitting here trying to think of something more clever to say but hey, I'm a quitter!
Amber Dusick is the mastermind behind the popular blog Parenting: Illustrated With Crappy Pictures. She began blogging because she was going crazy and needed a place to vent, and without her own paparazzi, she wound up drawing some crappy pictures to illustrate the day to day things that happen as a parent. Apparently these things happen to other parents too! You can find Amber on Twitter and Facebook.
For more advice on how to handle discussions about quitting, visit the Care.com Interview Series: When Is It OK for Your Child to Quit? »
Photo used with permission from Amber Dusick.