My husband and I recently paid $70 for a free soccer ball. Yep. It was a free soccer ball. Every child, enrolled in the first term of the weekly sports program, got a free ball. The next term, when they were to play basketball, every child would get a free basketball. Lucky we already had one of them, because we didn’t get that far.

By we I mean my husband, our eldest child Miss 4 and me. We didn’t even make it through the first class. If you want to get technical, we didn’t even make it through the first 10 minutes. Miss 4 did get her soccer ball and try to shoot a basketball goal with it, which is pretty much the reason we enrolled her in a sports program in the first place. We are not a sporting family. For example, the 2yo Who Never Sleeps points at every sport she sees and exclaims with glee: “rugby”. We thought by the time Miss 4 and her two sisters started school they should at least be able to differentiate between cricket and football. 

The soccer experiment wasn’t the first time we’d tried sport with our children. Miss 4 had done soccer before, but she was a 3yo then. She spent every class lying with her stomach on the ball and rolling around. One class she took her dress off and ran around in her knickers squealing, much to the delight of the other parents.

Swimming was going well until another child projectile vomited in the water. Even the 2yo Who Never Sleeps tried swimming a couple of times, but she spent most of the class scrambling to the side of the pool saying she was bored and didn’t like it. She only enjoyed the jumping in bit of class.

So anyway, our second go at soccer ended before 10 minutes with my husband fleeing with Miss 4 under his arm screaming. We drove away in record speed, both my husband and I sitting stoney faced in the front seat of the car and Miss 4 still screaming in the back seat. The other two kids had no idea what was going on. The 2yo Who Never Sleeps was just happy we got a new ball and the newborn was just happy we remembered to put in her in the car at all.

And then recently, I thought modern dancing would be a great alternative to structured sport.  I thought it wouldn’t be as threatening for my shy child. We didn’t have to book for the whole term and it was only $10 per class. She dressed up in dance tights, told everyone she was going to dancing and on the way there she told me how excited she was. “I love you, Mum,” she said beaming. My heart exploded.
The first class went well. I was so proud of her overcoming her shyness and I was taking way too many photos to show my husband, even though all you could see was the back of her head. I must have looked like a crazy woman – she’s participating, she’s participating – I kept mumbling proudly to myself. She was lulling me into a false sense of security. She “danced” for 15 minutes and then she refused to dance anymore.

The next week she refused to leave my side. She refused to get up and dance with her friend because he was a “boy”. I paid $10 to watch a bunch of kids I didn’t know run around and pretend to be bubbles blowing in the wind. I tried bribery – a chocolate was promised. She didn’t hold up her end of the bargain. I then experienced an excruciating trip to the shopping centre with a 4yo shouting “I want chocolate, give it to me now”. I felt like one of those awful pushy stage mums, but it’s a fine line between that and encouraging your child to always give things a go. Not to give up.

That is why we persisted. Miss 4 has since informed me she’d dance one week and then watch for two. And you know what – last week she danced for the whole class. The only catch – I had to dance too. So I did. Have I told you how great I am at balancing, crawling like a cat and blowing like a bubble in the wind. I just feel sorry for the poor child forced to look at my fat arse wobbling around.

At what age did you start organised activities with our children? Did they participate? And should we keep pushing our children or back down?