Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peewee Basketball

Gosh, those basketball recruiters start young these days.

For the fourth day in a row, my gmail inbox contains a note from a fellow parent at Benny’s Dinosaur School. She’s trying to organize a PeeWee basketball team for Saturday mornings.

For the mere sum of $140 ($90 for the class and $50 for a year’s membership), Benny can get bounced on the head by a basketball multiple times in a noisy gym. Which he might enjoy – but for heaven’s sake, he spends 40 hours a week with these kids already. Now he can go to a weekly class, along with the class-wide birthday parties we’re invited to about once a month. I swear, next these Dinosaur School parents will want us all to live in a commune so Benny and his 15 classmates can spend every waking hour together.

The New York Times published an op-ed piece about year ago which discusses how much families turn inward and have little time for outside friends, extended relatives, neighbors, fellow church members and so on. Titled Too Close for Comfort, the article cited a study from the American Sociological Review that found that, from 1985 to 2004, Americans reported a marked decline in the number of people with whom they discussed meaningful matters.

Generally, I think that’s true, perhaps because many mothers are working outside the home, and so parents’ schedules don’t allow for lunches with friends, long phone calls with relatives and little chats over the hedge with the neighbor. I’ve discovered this myself, with this temporary full-time gig at the Business Times. Since working full-time, I have to call my sister during the walk between Benny’s school and the train stop, call my friends on my lunch hour and talk with relatives on the weekends. I meet some girlfriends for dinner and drinks once a month, and we get together with friends as a family every few weeks. Right now, that’s all I’m up for.

But I’d also stipulate that families are getting lots of interaction with others, but it’s all school-based. Children’s school takes up an enormous amount of discretionary time. It’s not just the homework and activities, it’s all the involvement: the volunteering, the fundraising, the driving to and fro. So other sources of social involvement – the church, the neighborhood, the extended family gets squeezed out because all this school stuff seems so nonnegotiable.

I’m practically shivering at the prospect of Benny starting kindergarten in a few years, because I’m under no illusions that I can drop the kid off for half the day, bring him home and go about my business with a light heart. Whatever school he’s in, there’s going to be expected parental involvement and I’ll find myself pounding pies with a mallet at 2 a.m. so they look homemade for a school event, like the poor mother in this book.

Okay, so I’m a grinchy hermit and indifferent to my child’s education and social development and deserve to die alone in a hidden cave. Well, fine, then. And in the years before Benny hits kindergarten, I hope I can develop the maturity to fulfill my schoolmom duties with a happy smile.

But why rush it? Our experience with structured child activities has been discouraging anyway – although God knows Ron has tried. He took Benny to a baby massage class when he was six weeks old. The teacher told Ron he didn’t have the right hormones and to bring me to the next class. Ron never went back. He also took Benny to some sort of Teeny Tots Soccer Team last spring, but Benny just ignored the ball.

Perhaps our little guy is missing out. But Benny spent last Saturday morning riding his tricycle with his daddy in Golden Gate Park, and I’d guess that he’d prefer that to any peewee basketball.


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