I Am A Minimalist Parent

At this moment, Jenny is entranced by the Tim Burton version of Alice In Wonderland. Will finished making a batch of pancakes and is downloading skateboarding videos.  Later, they’ll make a birthday card for their cousin, ride their bikes on this glorious Fall day, and go to a bowling birthday party.

I’m not rushing around taking them to soccer practice, a Boy Scout meeting, a dance recital or karate lessons.

I take a minimalist’s approach to parenting by not jamming their schedules with lessons and practices.

I take issue with kids having schedules.

I could over-schedule them and decide what they should pursue to try to pave the way for an enriched future full of interests.

Or… I could let them make those choices.

If I over-schedule and decide for them, that paves the way to a future that finds them unable to make decisions with confidence – a future where they are unable to enjoy the sweetness of idle time.  Choosing for them robs them of learning the skills involved in making their own choices.

It’s my job to introduce them to activities so they can decide what it is they want to fall in love with.


I don’t have a problem with soccer, gymnastics, dance lessons, or Boy Scouts.

If Jen or Will expressed interest in any of those things, I’d find a way to get them involved – in one of those pursuits.

Jen and Will know what kinds of activities are available to them.  They have seen the smorgasbord of offerings available to today’s kids, provided there is enough time and money.

Will and Jen camp, fish, golf, ride bikes, skate and swim in the summer; and ski in the winter.  All year long they read, draw, play card and board games, and take in art and history at the local galleries and museums.  They travel and explore and experiment and  get on each others’ nerves and risk getting bored long enough to figure out how to entertain themselves.

They enjoy these things because they have the time to enjoy them.

They know the pleasure of having uninterrupted time to read a Magic Tree House Book, alter Barbie dresses, make plans for a new skateboard ramp, or finesse the perfect kickflip.

They won’t grow into young adults who haven’t developed the ability to decide what to do with their time.  They’ll know how to thrive, even if I’m not there to tell them what hobbies to enjoy, nag them to practice or convince them that it’s a good idea to spend hours on a soccer field.

Will and Jen will know the pleasure of deciding what to do with free time without relying on someone or something to entertain them.

Most of the things they love to do will be enjoyed long into adulthood.  Not all of these activities will stand the test of time, but their childhood’s should be sprinkled with activities that we still wish we could do as adults.

Will’s passion is skateboarding.  I can’t imagine that he’ll be skateboarding when he’s 45, but he probably wouldn’t be playing soccer then either.  I’d have less to worry about if Will wasn’t a skateboarder.  That would make my life easier.

It’s not about me.

It’s about them.

It’s not about how I feel when other parents tell me about the tournaments and the trophies and the stage performances and the bragging opportunities.

It’s not about making sure my kids do all the things that every other parent has their kid involved in.

It’s not about playing soccer because that’s what everyone else does.  It’s not about dance lessons and costumes and recitals because all the little girls are in dance.

It’s not about prescribed ways of raising kids.

It’s about what my kids want to love.

It’s about their choice.

It’s about giving them room to grow and expand and explore and be.

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  1. This reminds me of a recent comment from N: “How come the kids only want to do their stuff with you and not MY stuff with me?” hmmm

  2. Lisa,

    My two spent the whole day with their dad yesterday. It’s been a long time since they’ve done that. They came home and the youngest said, “Mom, could you please tell me what I do right?”

  3. Lisa, that is classic!

    I, too, take issue with kids having schedules.

    I also hate that Ns cannot accept children for who they are. The constant pressure of impossible expectations creates a sense of failure. Why would you want your children to feel like failures? Is it because they want to prove they are better? Or is it because the kids are viewed as an extension of themselves so the perception needs to be that they are perfect?

    Jesse, I am sure there was plenty to show Jen that she does do things HER way, the “right” way. :)

  4. Z,

    Kids are extensions of the N, and must always reflect positively on them. But the double-edged sword is that they must make the N look good while NEVER doing anything better than the N.

    Yeah. Fine line – that one.

    And yes, there is always a bit of decompression necessary after one of the visits. But after a few minutes, they are in their happy zone, doing what they love, not seeking approval and able to just be.

  5. My little one asked me a few years back, ‘Mum, how old do I have to be before my hair is mine?’

    N had told my little one that his hair belonged to N, because he had to look at him so N chose how his hair would be ‘done’…..

  6. Lisa,

    And that, in a nutshell, is life with a narcissist.

    Absolutely EVERYTHING is about them.

  7. I just started homeschooling and really appreciate this reminder. My kids are extroverts and really need to rub elbows with people outside our home frequently, so I have tried to build in activities that will allow them to do that. But it’s hard to get involved in those things only up to a certain point, because so many of the others involved have a different philosophy.

  8. Lucy,

    We live in a small community. I checked into the homeschool group and the unschool group. We are somewhere in the middle with our own philosophy, so we didn’t end up joining either group.

    We’ve maintained relationships with friends made in public school, and we’re blessed to spend lots of time with cousins.

    You’ll find a happy groove.

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