When to Let Your Kids Quit and when to Make Them Stick it Out

Credit: thetorpedodog / Creative CommonsMy step-daughter, Ava, wants to quit the track team. Just a month and a half ago she embarked on a parental campaign to acquire incredibly expensive indoor and outdoor running sneakers, spandex, sports bras and the school's line of logowear, personalized sweats and rugbies. We were skeptical but excited to see Ava engaged in physical activity. As a freshman at a giant high school, her dad and I want her to find her niche and some activities she loves.

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When Trey and I moved in together, my stepkids, Ava and Chet, were seven and ten. Before, as a single dad living in New York City, Trey had a different idea of kids' "activities." Rather than run around to youth sports practices, Trey took the kids to museums and signed them up for French lessons. I, on the other hand, view parenting as a commitment to shuttling between soccer tournaments and play practice.

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While Chet dove into soccer and baseball, and now theater and debate, nothing sticks for Ava. She'd prefer to come straight home from school and onto her computer. Over the years, she's tried soccer, volleyball, dance, acting in the school play and writing for the school newspaper. Ava has flirted with the idea of trying out for cheerleading and joining the sailing team.

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But generally it's too much of a time commitment or the social dynamics are too awkward or all of the kids have been playing soccer or doing cheerleading since they popped out of their mama's bellies. Hearing this, I research cheerleading training camps and classes that teach you how to prepare theater auditions, but this, understandably, makes me seem like a type-A, coach parent, and Ava just wants to be left alone. Ava is an amazing honors student, a great friend who loves to have sleepovers, and just a sweet kid. I often ask her for fashion advice and she's recently recovered from her love of One Direction.

My step-daughter's objections to track have to do with the time commitment, every day after school from 2:30 to 4:30, and running every day, which one might argue should not be a surprise when joining the "track" team. Her first stadium steps and wind sprints filled Ava with horror and drove her under the covers for two days with extreme muscle soreness. All of which I thought were tough but positive experiences until Ava announced she planned to quit track before the spring season.

Luckily, Trey wanted to handle this delicate situation with Ava. And since I'm the step-parent and coach-type I was relieved. Dad says she has to finish out the spring season. She'll miss practice one day a week to take the guitar lessons she's pining for, which seemed to lessen the blow. But until next fall when she finds something to replace track, she'll muscle through. Trey and I keep to the mantra that physical activity, engaging with your school community, and learning to organize your time are all positive life skills we want Ava to develop. Hopefully, she will look back and see this as a valuable, albeit difficult, even completely annoying, experience.

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