My Q, your A: Quitting while you’re ahead?

If you want to see what was in the mystery boxes in my garage, check out the pictures in this post.

In honor of the Olympics, Shannon and I have decided to have tea every day for the duration of the games. Join us, please. We'll be doing it at 4 Eastern/3 Central but you can do it whenever makes sense for you. I think Shannon is actually doing tea and scones, but I'll be doing coffee and celery-with-peanut-butter.

I am insane for the Olympics, and have had all the qualifying round soccer games on whenever they show them on NBC Sports. How about the US women, eh? I'm very sad that I'm missing the Opening Ceremony because I'll be in class tonight. (Not least of which because I'll be in class tonight. Sigh.)

So here's a dilemma: My kids finished their swim lessons for the summer this week (before leaving on a road trip with their dad) and both did well and advanced to the next level. My 10-year-old, in particular, is getting very good–he knows all four strokes, dives well, is increasing his stamina and refining his technique. His teacher said he'd do well on the swim team. But he doesn't want to keep swimming.

I'm kind of baffled by this. I COMPLETELY understand not doing things you're NOT good at, and that's been the struggle of my whole life. I think running may be the first thing I ever stuck with that I sucked at, and I am so, so glad I did.

But being good at something and not keeping going with it kind of stumps me. Especially when it's a sport, and he knows he has to be involved in some kind of sport (his dad and I think it's important), so why not go with one you're good at?

Has anyone been through this? When I was in high school I was a pretty serious singer, but made the decision to go to a liberal arts college instead of pursing singing. But I'm not sure it's the same thing, since I didn't stop singing, I just didn't pursue it professionally.

Have you flat-out quit something you were good at? Has your child? If you did something well and continuedd doing it even when you didn't want to, did you eventually enjoy it?


57 thoughts on “My Q, your A: Quitting while you’re ahead?”

  1. My son is much younger than yours but same here, and swimming too. He was apparently very talented for his age group, but had no interest in pursuing it once he could do what he wanted to do.It was one of those rubber-meets-the-road moments of my parenting. I let him quit, with the caveat that if his skills regress below the highest testing point he reached, I get to put him in lessons again. (There is a beach house and a lake house in the family; I was a banshee about water safety for the kids because of that.)
    The fact is, in our case, being good at it didn’t mean he loved it. And while I would dearly love for him to swim more (=more tired, =more fit, lifetime sport, etc.), that’s not what he wants. Darned parenting philosophies.

  2. I was actually in exactly your son’s position. I was a talented swimmer, andbutted swim competitively, but I never really enjoyed it. I liked meets okay, because they were social and swimming a race only takes a minute or so, but I could not stand the long hard slog of practice. I found it incredibly boring. Being able to swim is one thing, being able to tolerate staring at the bottom of a pool for hours on end is something incredibly different. My parents persisted, and I kept at it, but I never enjoyed it. I didn’t even get in a pool for close to 18 years until I started training for a triathlon a few weeks ago.If you and your husband think being involved in a sport is important (and I totally agree), your son needs to be allowed to choose one he enjoys. I also did gymnastics and figure skating, and though I was less talented at those sports, I enjoyed them more, and so worked harder and learned more than I ever learned from the sport I was really good at.

  3. I was very good at running in Junior High. I even went to state in track, individually and as part of a relay. But I quit when High School came around. It was mostly because it seemed too scary competitive. And I feared failure since I had already been identified as being good (the high school track coach even pulled me aside to ask why I hadn’t signed up yet and tried to encourage me to do so). My mom gave me zero grief in that decision, mostly because she knew I was the type that if she tried to push me, I would have just dug in my heels harder.This won’t help you either but I do sort of regret quitting. Or rather, regret being to afraid of failing to try something I loved doing (I run half marathons mostly now and I LOVE race day). So my advice would be to try and figure out more why he doesn’t want to do it and if encouraging/pushing him will help him or make him more obstinate. It might just not be his thing?

  4. Do you know why your son doesn’t want to keep up with it? That might help guide your thinking on what to do (nothing else to add really, my experience has been more the opposite, not wanting to do something because I was bad at it – or not getting any better -and finding it was bringing me down and it was time to move on to something else).

  5. BDTD. Will is a quite good hockey player, but doesn’t play at the moment. Our decision to let him drop it was eased by the appalling situation of the team for his age group, no house league, only travel and the travel was absurd. For example, Dover DE to Wilkes-Barre for a late Sunday afternoon game. Plus many of the kids were insufferable, as were many of the parents. Even the coach said his IQ dropped whenever he went in the locker room. So not quite an analogous situation. But personally I wouldn’t force a kid to continue competitively with something if he’s given it a good shot.Sara

  6. Those moments are hard – we have experience to see how much easier it is to pursue something you have a talent in; a child might just see “more work ahead” and opt out.But he might have many other, maybe inarticulatable, reasons. He might want to try some other sports before settling with one. He might feel pressured, even if you guys don’t feel you’re pressuring him. He might want to swim for fun only, or not like the coaches, or others on the team.
    I’d say let it go for now, gently explore it when he feels the pressure’s off, invite him to try other sports (esp w an eye toward team-type sports and solo-type sports – soccer vs tennis) and revisit next summer after he (maybe?) rediscovers and appreciates swimming for fun.
    I had this drive for a while to get my boys to sign up for a variety of different sports early, before it got Really Competitive, so they could learn the game(s), feel like they were participating, try a few varied things, and then decide what they were good at/liked. This plan blew up pretty fast. My older son loves soccer, hates the competition. Each signup (karate, t-ball, etc) became a “you must get your uniform on now!” battle and practices ate up all our family time. I’m torn about signing my younger one up for things (he’s in karate now) b/c I don’t want that battle; I want it to be his choice, but how can he make an informed choice if he hasn’t tried it out? Argh.
    It’s not easy. Good luck to you all.

  7. I was really good at dancing and golf, but quit both when I was about 13-14. I just had different priorities in life then (i.e. boys, friends, etc.) that I didn’t want to dedicate my time to those things. I look back now and wish I had kept with it, since I value those things much more now. But, hindsight is always 20/20 and I think making (potentially wrong) decisions is all part of growing up.

  8. Help him find something he is passionate about regardless of his talent. I had my kid rotate through a few sports. He is not a sports kid, but he does love to dance. So now he dances and dances and dances. Not particularly well, but he has heart and doesn’t complain about going to class. There are other things he is better at, but nothing he is more passionate about.

  9. Which aspect of sports is most important in your (including his dad) world view:(A) The competitive
    (B) The team-building
    (C) The physical activity
    Of those three choices, which would your son choose, do you think? And then ask him.
    It’s possible that your son enjoys swimming for C reason, but doesn’t want Swim Team because of reason A. Or maybe he’d rather be in a team sport, and swimming is more individual.
    Just because he’s good at swimming, doesn’t necessarily follow that he’d like the competition form.

  10. Oh! Forgot to add one more point…I remember when I was a kid, I didn’t realize that you could do an activity WITHOUT being attached to a team/organized group.
    Check to make sure that your son knows that he can keep swimming even if he doesn’t want to be on swim team.

  11. Echoing Christina. There are lots of things I’m good at that bore me to tears. The flow research suggests that we’re happiest when we’re doing something that is meaningful to us and sufficiently challenging without being too frustrating.

  12. I was a very talented violinist (started at age 5), and by the time I was 8, I hated it. Like, loathed it. I loved music, I had a nice teacher, etc. As to why: I can only say that it didn’t fit with my image of myself. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the truth. I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. Playing the violin felt like devoting a lot of energy to the wrong thing.

  13. Luna is a great skater, IMNot so humble O. She worries about competing too much because she doesn’t want to stress.We tell her to keep skating for fun.
    Whenever she has open ice, she asks me what to do and I give her 4-5 items and then tell her to do some fun jumps, but to pretend her coach is watching and do them like her coach would want her to. She did an awesome toe-loop the other day and came over all excited. When I explained she needed more speed to jump higher, she explained how she gets nervous that she’ll hit someone (most jumps you enter backwards, so skating fast backwards makes her nervous).
    That was unexpected. I never would have thought that was why she wouldn’t go fast.
    Anyway, my point is that your son might love swimming for fun and his reasons for not wanting to be on the swim team may be complex. Ask him. Is it that he doesn’t want to feel pushed? Is he afraid of failing? Is he afriad of making others feel badly?

  14. I wouldn’t push it. Maybe he’ll change his mind later, maybe he won’t. If he enjoys swimming, maybe he thinks that joining a team will make it less fun. Or maybe he’s just not a team kind of guy!

  15. My son has always been very nimble and fast. He loves kicking the soccer ball around with us, but hated soccer. Like, tears when it came time to go to practice. To make it worse, anytime another parent saw him play for fun, they’d come up to us and say, “Hey, he’s really talented…is he on a team?”Maybe it’ll change in time and he’ll want to be on a team. For now, we’re not worried about the sports thing. But it’s interesting to see your kid not like something at which they clearly excel. It’s a lesson in patience, which I generally always need!

  16. Swimming is such a weird sport (IMHO!); I love to swim and having my son learn to swim effectively and safely has been a big priority for me … I mean, I just think that is a basic life skill one should acquire, and we typically go to the pool 3 or 4 times a week to swim for fun. But good heavens I hope my DS never develops an interest in swim team: yuck. The back-and-forth-back-and-forth aspect of that sport would drive me to tears. Maybe your son feels the same way? I’d let him choose whatever sport he wants to be involved in (within reason in terms of your household time and money resources, and so on): aren’t they supposed to be fun?

  17. I was a good swimmer and still do it for exercise, but I hated the competition. Even practice is competitive because you (or at least I) spend time comparing yourself to other swimmers, worry about what lane you are in, etc.

  18. We kind of talked our daughter into trying out the swim team last year, because she clearly enjoyed swimming, had had lessons from a very good teacher who taught her all the strokes, and needed the exercise. She is not fast, she is nowhere near winning races in uber-competitive No.Virginia, but she has said that she feels “peaceful” while in the water and after practice. She finds swim meets both boring and nerve-wracking, but she is thrilled when she beats her previous times and philosophical when she doesn’t do as well. We stressed that we didn’t care about where she placed, only that she worked hard and tried her best. After she finished out the year on the swim team, we gave her the option to swim or not on the summer swim team, and also let her decide whether or not to re-join the indoor team in the fall. She chose to do both.That said, we think swimming is great for her because she doesn’t have the coordination/athletic ability to go very far in sports, really, especially in this area of the country where competition in everything starts early. Just didn’t get the right genes from dear old mom and dad. Swimming is something she can do her whole life. Plus she is pretty sensitive to heat and again like me, doesn’t like to get sweaty. So swimming solves that one, too.
    But perhaps your son is one of those kids who is naturally athletic? If so, presumably he would do well at a variety of sports, and swimming just isn’t “the one”?
    Something else to think about, as well: winter swim teams tend to be a big financial and time commitment. Ours lasts from September to May. But around here, at least, there are summer(outdoor) swim teams that last about 6 weeks, from Memorial Day to the end of July. Perhaps that is an option next summer if he doesn’t want to make the commitment for the school year?

  19. I think these are all good responses, and can add that my husband is a naturally talented swimmer who swam competitively (and successfully) through high school and ended up really disliking it — which has actually made it harder for him to keep swimming as an adult. Plus, your son isn’t actually stopping swimming — he’ll still go to the pool, right? Just like your deciding not to go to conservatory didn’t mean you never sang again.I’m curious, too, about the “has to do a sport” rule — what are the desired outcomes? I can believe they’re good ones, but it seems like it would be important to keep an eye on the outcomes not on the rule itself. Right? I’m an active, healthy adult who’s never enjoyed organized sports or any sort of physical competition. I didn’t mind trying out different activities when I was a kid — dance, soccer, track, swim team — but it was a huge relief to me when I realized that quitting ones I found stressful wasn’t a failure of character, just part of life. That’s actually a lesson I’d think would be a good one to give a kid — that it’s okay to trust your gut about what you want, so long as you’re also conscious of sometimes challenging or pushing yourself — it’s a lesson I acquired much later than I could have.

  20. Ah, to clarify: Swim team is a summer activity, twice a week, not too expensive. So not a huge commitment.The aspects of sports that are important are the physical activity and team-building. He can keep running with me for physical activity, but realistically it’s not enough. And he needs the team-building. He doesn’t like other sports, so it’s not a matter of swimming instead of something else he really wants to do. It’s swimming or sitting around reading. And I love that he’s a reader, but as a reader myself, I wish I’d been forced to do some physical activity as a kid and learn how to be on a team, because those were things I couldn’t get from a book. And there’s time for both.

  21. My niece used to be in Gymnastics and was very talented at it, to the point where she was placed with girls 4 and 5 years older than she was. These folks were working towards serious competitions, and my niece really didn’t like that pressure. So my sister put her into Circus Arts classes instead. Same skills, less pressure.When she got to HS, she played on the varsity teams for soccer and basketball.

  22. There are other team-building activities (like robotics teams, and academic olympics) that your son can do if he’d prefer to not be on an athletic team, and you can keep him in an athletic pursuit just for the fun and health of it.

  23. My girls both swim in the summer swim league. They both complain at the beginning of the season (the water is too cold!) and are bummed when it ends at the end of the season (it’s short, only 5 weeks). My youngest is very good. It’s a sport I think she’d excel in but she doesn’t want to swim year round. For her it is water temperature, the indoor pools are too cold. I continue to push the summer league mostly because it has really improved their conditioning and has made them into excellent swimmers. And its alot of fun for both them and us, also gets me in the pool more. It uses completely different muscle groups than soccer, basketball and running which are the other things they do. One of the things it did introduce them to was youth triathlons (through a brochure handed out at a meet). They are now both training for their first youth triathlon and are beyond excited about it. We’ll see how they feel after that happens, but it was a nice side effect of the swim season. I try to support them in their choices and I do push a little to keep them committed. I want them to have very active lifestyles that continue into adulthood. So far, I’d say their passions are soccer and basketball. Neither is going to be a super star in either of those, but they are having fun and enjoying being part of a team. While the little one is a great swimmer (she’s 8), she isn’t interested in pursuing it year round and we’ve decided to be OK with that, but will continue to push the summer league.

  24. Hm. Two main thoughts:1. Moxie, you are such a multi-talented woman that I can’t believe you are actually pursuing every talent at the maximum level yourself. I think you’re underselling yourself in a way, here.
    2. I think there’s a big difference between “not pursuing the next level just now” and “quitting”. He’ll still be a good swimmer whether he’s on the team or not; swimming can also lead to all kinds of water sports – surfing, sailing, rowing, etc.
    (Aside: I was on just that kind of summer swim team when I was a kid and I so wish we had it here instead of only 10 hour/week, all year round ones. Ugh.)
    I have quit many things I’m fairly good at; I suppose the most salient was that my parents insisted that a girl who was good at math had to go into a quantitative field to break stereotypes. The thing is, I never liked the day to day work of math or physics. So I bailed out of the major freshman year, and I’ve never regretted it; I have certainly regretted the time I put into something I knew wasn’t interesting though. It held me back from finding my true interests, things I’m happy to pursue for hours at a time. It’s those things where you actually enjoy not just the peak experiences but the day-to-day that will stick with you.
    I also discovered, long after professional track ballet chewed me up and spit me out, how much I enjoyed rehearsals but not performances. So now I do a physical discipline that is form-based and goes to strength and flexibility but isn’t a performance discipline (yoga). That works for me.
    I think you should help your son find the physical thing he loves, while leaving open the idea that it could be swimming and that’s there for him.

  25. I think if you’re looking for the team building aspect of sports, you could also look at things that are not sports: theater groups, some kind of volunteer organization, etc.Also: you could offer to have him try one practice to give it a shot and make an informed decision after the practice.
    Is there a cross-country or running club – he might like that as a sport better than swimming.
    My dad is a pilot. He learned to fly probably about the same time that he learned to drive. However, he is not a professional pilot. As a teenager, I never understood that. His answer was that he didn’t want flying to be work. It makes a lot more sense to me know – there are things I like to do for fun, but I would not like to do them for a job because it would lose a lot of the fun (which, frankly, is the self-directed aspect of it).

  26. Yep, my first year of college I quit playing the piano. I’d taken lessons for years and was good enough to play in the local theater’s orchestra and I stayed busy performing or accompanying throughout high school.I quit because I burned out. Growing up I felt a lot of pressure to succeed at something musical because it’s my family’s legacy. Several members of my family have gone on to make a living in music, and the pressure to succeed in music was direct and overwhelming to me. It’s still there, actually, there’s a few members of my family who still give me a hard time about quitting. Even though I had realized years before I quit that my heart wasn’t in playing the piano, I continued because I was hoping that if I kept practicing that I would get “it,” one day and understood why others loved playing and performing. I never did. I quit in college when I finally had an outwardly legitimate reason, (time commitment and scheduling issues) and I was ready to be independent from all of that and could handle disappointing people.
    I don’t regret quitting, it was an important part of growing up for me. I do regret that there couldn’t have been some sort of reasonable balance with the lessons and performances that prevented burnout. It would be nice to have the piano as a hobby as an adult, and I think I would still play today if I could have found that balance.

  27. As a kid I was pretty good at soccer, and I enjoyed it for several years, but I quit when I got to high school. My reason was that I didn’t feel like I “fit in” with the majority of the soccer “scene”. I got along fine with the other girls, but as we all got older and developed interests and whatnot, I just felt like it was not my crew. Anyway, just a thought that he may not feel like he clicks with the other swimmers. Maybe not the best reason to quit a sport, but hey, he’s a kid! Good luck!

  28. One other point I wanted to make: later will not be too late to start if he wants to. Mouse and I were just catching up on So You Think You Can Dance and there was a little segment about how one of the contestants didn’t start dancing until 16. I know it’s hard to remember (certainly for me) when there are people who tell you that your kid will be irremediably behind if she starts soccer at 7 instead of 4, but all that will happen is they’ll need to do some catching up. OTOH, they’ll be bigger and better at learning and won’t be as burnt out.I also find the notion that sports is the only way to learn teamwork to be questionable. (Swimming – racing anyway, water polo and synchro are different – is only marginally a team sport in any case.)
    One other thing that has worked for us (OK, I guess I have lots to say. sorry!) is that Mouse tries out many things in afterschool programs and daycamps. These tend to be more generalist – or at least, be available in generalist forms – where she can try a number of activities and then another time can sign up for something more focused in the ones she likes. If camp plays soccer once a day for an hour, she can forget about it once that camp ends, or ask to join an actual team. Turns out she loves circus aerials, of all things, and hiking/backpacking. We’re kind of hoping she’ll get interested in basketball, as a person with Mr. C’s coordination and my jumping ability could be quite a good player, but we won’t force her. Forcing to me would be signing her up for a team and insisting she stick to it; encouraging on the other hand might be trying to find a friend who would also join, and agreeing to commit for a season.
    Anyway, are there good daycamps where you are, that are financially reasonable for you? That could provide him some additional opportunities and get his nose out of a book for part of the day. 🙂

  29. I was a good swimmer but HATED swimming as a kid. My parents made me do swim team for a few years (started at age 5, I”m the youngest of 3 – I realized now as an adult that my mom just wanted my brother – the swimmer of the family – and I in the same place at the same time) and I ended up loving it after the 2nd year. Swim team defined all parts of my childhood and I’m so grateful for the experience – I swam competitively for 13 years. I still love it. I don’t know – sometimes just the experience is a good one even if only for a year or so. I have every plan for my kids to be on the swim team as soon as their skills allow.

  30. I earned a varsity letter in cross country when I was only in seventh grade. I ran again in eighth grade and then in ninth decided to switch to swimming. Reasons: 1) even though I was a good runner, I didn’t enjoy it at all, and 2) I didn’t have any friends on the team. In fact, a couple of the girls were downright nasty to me. Unfortunately, I encountered the same situation on the swim and track teams and stopped doing sports after sophomore year.The social aspect of sports is really important and sometimes gets overlooked. I felt like such an outsider that it didn’t matter how well I performed. Could your son being having problems with his fellow swimmers? Or perhaps he simply finds it boring. I remember those grueling, 2.5-hour long practices feeling like an eternity.

  31. Ditto on so many of the comments below regarding being good at something, but not passionate about it and also, having high interests in things you aren’t necessarily naturally talented at. For me that was swimming versus gymnastics… Swimming competitively just bored me. Whereas gymnastics thrilled me and I did it thru high school team, but never with the promise of bringing any talent to the team! Funny, I also was a singer and would sing the national anthem at our meets… My coach gave me the certificate “most accomplished singer” for my gymnastics award, lol! That’s how average of a gymnast I was, but I loved every minute of it.One thing swimming did open up for me later was becoming a lifeguard at age 16. I never had a problem finding a summer job from that point forward and did it thru college. loved the team aspect of lifeguarding and doing rescue drill. I lifeguarded at our local lake mostly, and the friends I made those summers are still with me today, 20 years later.
    I also discover non- team sports that became long term loves like rock climbing, and kayaking. Things I discovered in high school and still do today, though I’m not especially talented in or at least not at the level to pursue competitively.
    Lastly, I concur with others about team building being accomplished thru groups in theatre or academic clubs.
    Maybe the point of all this is that you can encourage your son to accomplish both goals of staying fit via a sport of his choice and a team building activity of his choice – they don’t necessarily have to be one and the same thing. Good luck! I think the discovery of passions is a wonderful journey to explore with kids!

  32. My kids swim and i have had the opposite issues. The LOVE it and they started very young. My oldest was 6 my youngest was 4…they let him on the team because he could do a lap and he was VERY eager. They were he worst kids on the team for almost 3 years but they loved it anyway. My older son got discouraged and almost quit but instead he decided to add karate. (karate fell by the wayside)This summer everything changed. My 8yo went from the worst to the best. My 6yo is best 6yo in the league both are in the top ten in their league.
    I am so proud they stuck to it. They kept choosing to go back year after year and finally saw success. And they both grin their way down the pool during their races.
    Winter swimming starts in Oct. The boys have already asked when does winter team start and we still have not finished the summer team.
    My older son has issues with ball games. He has ADHD and other conduct disorders. They suspect he is also is on the autism spectrum and has learning disabilities. It is amazing to see him succeed at something oh so normal. At one point he was having horrible reactions to epilepsy meds and the coaches let him stay at the bottom of the deep end conquering his side effects
    In writing this comment I asked my 6yo what he thought of swimming and he replied I love it almost as much as I love fruit snacks. So there you go.

  33. If you can let the kids just enjoy the activity without the pressure of being on a team or in all-district band or thinking of a profession, that can give them the room to figure out how much they like an activity.It took two years of gentle pressure to get my (now mid-twenties) son to audition for the fancy local chorus. He spent 9 yrs there, loving it. He was worried that the pressure of working at singing would spoil the pressure and that he would not be good enough.
    The best thing the chorus did was tell the parents right away that being a good singer would not mean your kid had a future as a professional. This was just to learn something that would provide pleasure now and in the future.
    I am very much enjoying doing something, now, that I am not very good at but is fun. I think it is important to have room for those sorts of things in our kid’s lives, rather than plotting how they are going to get into college or be a professional or have accomplishments to show off.

  34. When I quit my job to stay home with my kids, the conclusion I came to was, “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should do it.” I was good at it and made lots of money, but I didn’t get any satisfaction from it.

  35. I was a sports quitter too– it was fine in middle school but at the high school level the time spent traveling to games, waiting between games at tournaments, sports-related events like fundraisers and “banquets”, started to become so out-of-proportion to the time spent actually playing the game or getting exercise at all. My parents were supportive of it, I think the endless travel and expense of it was getting to them too.In our school district sports were so intense that people couldn’t really do any other activity if they did sports, and that seems like it cut off people’s opportunities to explore different activities. Ultimately I felt I had to choose between sports and orchestra, it just wasn’t logistically possible to do both. I did feel like I got a lot of teamwork and leadership benefits out of orchestra, so quitting sports opened up more time for that.

  36. “I love it as much as I love fruit snacks.” Best comment ever.I swam on my local swim team through the beginning of elementary school but I quit when I was about 10 because I couldn’t take the early morning practices and I hated dry land training. I don’t regret that. I love to swim now and am an extremely confident swimmer in pools and open water.
    However, I wish I had been involved in sports in high school. I think it may have led me to a different friend group and it would be nice to be involve in some sort of adult rec league now. I am a runner, but my husband plays team sports and gets a lot of enjoyment out of it.

  37. I walked away from 27 hours of 4.0 in a masters degree. I had a different view of what I was going to get when I started than once I got into it, and I realized somewhere along the way how desperate I was for that academic validation, and how little I knew myself just parroting b.s. to get grades. I wish I had a masters for the job market, but otherwise, even though I was succeeding, it just wasn’t worth it to me.

  38. There could be lots of reasons. Don’t overlook sensory stuff…. While I am a strong swimmer, I just everything about the feeling of the pool – the water feels slimy to me, and the smell hurts my nose. Not fun.A wonderful resource for finding the intersection between your child’s areas of ability and joy is “Your Child’s Strengths” – it totally changed my parenting. Amazing!

  39. I’m good at a lot of things (seriously — aptitude testing pegged me as having “too many aptitudes”) and have quit or not pursued a good many of them — schools, jobs, talents. A few of them I now wish I’d stuck with, but the decision was mine, and had I not been allowed to quit, I would have really, really hated them.Dormant or active, your son’s talents will always be there, so give him the freedom to choose how and when to use them.
    I also think teams are overrated, but I’m a misanthropic loner…

  40. Why doesn’t he want to continue? What are his reasons? What do you suspect the reasons are?One thought is that if it’s performance anxiety related, and you’ve seen the reluctance in other situations before, I would spend time talking about his fears and encourage him to keep going as an experiment to challenge the fears (and cost of the feared event). It will likely pay off across a lot of domains.

  41. I was a competitive swimmer at your son’s age too. I was good, but I wasn’t the best on the team, probably not even in the top 10% of my team. I loved being on swim team with my friends, but I didn’t love swim practice every day. I tried to quit, but my parents insisted I continue. At the time I wasn’t pleased about it, but in retrospect I am glad they made me do it – it taught me the importance of sticking to commitments and it made me a better swimmer.

  42. My older kid is a fantastic swimmer – by age 6, she had tested out all of the Ys swim lesson categories and was biding her time until she could join the winter swim team (she had been on the summer one at the local pool but the winter has a starting age of 7) – she’s amazing, especially for a kid her age. I’m particularly interested in keeping her fit and active because my family runs towards early puberty and buxomness and well. Being very athletic will postpone both of those things so that maybe, just maybe, if I can keep her running in circles enough, she won’t get her period until she’s 11 and won’t hit the DD+ until the middle of high school. And competition/team sports wig her out, so swimming is perfect.BUT. When she joined the swim team, it was clearly too intense for a kid her age/temperament. She started getting headaches in addition to the usual fussiness – just too much pushing, mentally and physically, at the end of a long day for a 2nd grader. We quit after a few months and I’m thinking of it as a postponement. I take her swimming at every opportunity and she practices all her strokes (likes lap swimming, even) – I expect to encourage her to join the swim team in middle or high school. All of which is to say: he’s 10. As long as he keeps practicing, he’ll be ready to jump in when he’s a bit older. Unless you have secret plans for the Olympics or something. 😉
    When we dropped swim team, we picked up karate. It isn’t cardio, but it fits her personality, and she’s been excelling. Hooray!

  43. I was a very good programmer, and did it for 5 years. But I hated it. I never wanted to read trade journals or go to conventions/seminars the way my collegues did. I was good at it, but it bored me. So I quit. And I’ve never regretted quitting (although I *have* regretted the loss of that paycheck.)

  44. How about rock climbing (at an indoor gym) as a sport? Orienteering? Biking?I do see value in having a child be in a sport, or at least being active, but I see *more* value in learning to choose activities that feel authentic.
    10 around here seems to be when it’s expected, in many sports, that kids buckle down and be professional and good, but developmentally I think there’s value in maybe continuing to try different things to find the right fit–would you and his dad feel ok about the focus on finding the right sport/activity vs. being on a team, for this year?
    (My dilemma is an 8yo who does baseball and rock climbing, which is already tricky schedule-wise, and wants to add gymnastics, ballet, and archery. Balance is just hard, I think, when there are so many possibilities. We homeschool, and it would be easy to be scattered from trying to do all the great things friends are doing with their kids, academically and otherwise, but I am trying lately to strive for calm and authentic.
    One other thought is that I have a kiddo who needs a little scaffolding sometimes. I feel perfectly fine pushing him to try something (like clay, or art) enough to see if it feels right, because he needs a little time to warm up. I certainly wouldn’t push him to continue, but I also know that his initial hesitation is sometimes, “This isn’t right,” but sometimes it’s, “I can’ picture how this will be, and I’m not sure I will know what to do.” After an initial trial, I feel good following his instincts, but sometimes at the beginning I need to follow mine, even if they conflict with his.

  45. Mr G: Talented musician. Not passionate about it. Prefers to enjoy music than play it, in general. Might like another instrument, but has no drive to really be an outstanding musician. So we’ll get him bagpipe lessons eventually, probably. Pretty good at tai chi, as well, but found the practice time was messing with his life. Bzzt on that one, too. Jewelry making, he’ll do without being asked, and he’s talented at it. Bingo! Not a sport, but definitely a passion.Mr B: Passionate about horses from the moment he first saw one, wanted lessons at 2, had to wait until he was 4, loves it. He’s good, but not naturally talented at it the way one thinks of – he’s just skillful, from working on it, and he works on it because he loves it. Also a talented artist, and will work at that, too, because he enjoys that as well. Has competed a few times, but doesn’t enjoy that, and now doesn’t do shows (horse shows). :shrug: he rides, that’s enough.
    Miss M: Is a fish, and is thinking about swim competition, even though she’s shy+introverted. She might do a swim team, and like it. If she doesn’t like it, she’ll still be encouraged to swim, even if not lessons.
    Miss R: No clear path, many things she thinks are cool, but nothing she is really passionate about, tries various things, hasn’t fired up. Maybe will, maybe won’t.
    Without the passion, there’s not much reason to push, unless you want to spend your life pushing them. I don’t have that kind of energy. And while ep says he sometimes wishes his parents pushed him to play piano (natural talent), he really doesn’t have a passion for it, so he may as well have wished he had been born with a passion for it. Most of the truly impressive skill+talent people I know dragged their parents behind them as they dove into their passions. Having passion plus talent is great, and feeding that so they develop skill is a great investment. Otherwise, I can’t replace their passion with my own, it won’t work.
    The tricky part for us is when someone does have a passion, and then the passion dips for some reason. How do you bridge that to where their passion has picked back up? Will it pick back up? How do you know how long or hard to push? We have been lucky with Mr B, because it was clear enough when he lost his passion for riding that it was not about the riding, it was about boredom due to lack of challenge. He has only wanted to quit when it was too easy, and he wasn’t learning and striving at a high effort level and gaining skills. Coasting makes him want to quit. So we’ve bridged that by moving the effort up, getting the instructors to challenge him more, and within a few weeks he’s back to loving it again. At this point, it is part of his identity so deeply I doubt he’d lose interest deeply, though he may choose to make it not his primary interest at some point.
    So yeah, along with the majority here, we don’t think talent is a reason to stay in an activity, passion is. Regardless of talent.

  46. I don’t have a lot to say except that some kids (like adults) are really not joiners and don’t enjoy team sports. I really like swimming and there was a swim team, but it’s really an individual sport. Does he really need to participate in a team?And the thing about team sports is that they take up a huge amount of time (that’s why I quit the swim team) but I suppose in summer, you’re right, there is time. But pick something where the parents don’t have to ferry the kids around because you will be spending your life taking him to practices and meets.

  47. Is there any opportunity for you and your son to do a short bi or triathalon that involves swimming? Maybe getting out there to swim for something like that with you will ignite something.Ideally our children’s passion and talent will fit nicely together. I know you of all parents will always, always nurture the passion.
    I too have never really been good at sports. And I too have never really understood how someone can have gobs of natural talent and zero interest. I can see my 4 yo son has the grace and strength of his athletic-but-not-athletic-minded father. I’ve often thought how I’ll handle the exact situation you’re in now.

  48. I’m late to this, and haven’t read previous comments, but we are sort of going through that now. My husband is desperate to quit his soul-sucking job, but it is very lucrative and he is very good at it. We’re all so ingrained with ‘don’t quit’, there is no talk about when, in fact, it does make sense, to leave, even if you could have made a go of it. I say let him go have done doing a different sport. At this point in time, this one isn’t doing it for him.

  49. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with requiring an organized athletic activity for a child, depending on his/her needs. My parents had a rule that each kid needed a music lesson and a team sport of some kind during elementary school. We could choose which one (within reason), but had to have one of each until we hit middle school. We could switch between seasons, but once we joined a team for a season or started with a music teacher, we had to stick it out for the year. It really worked well for both of us and my husband and I will probably do that for our son. I flitted around different sports and never really found anything I loved, but I kept active and made friends and knew enough to appreciate watching the sports later. The most meaningful experience really was piano. I started at age 6, was TERRIBLE, wanted to quit, threw fits, but mom said no. There weren’t really any other types of music lessons available and they weren’t going to buy a musical instrument for a six year old, so they made me stick with piano all the way until age 9. I didn’t like it, never practiced, but I kept going until late elementary when band and orchestra started at school. I started playing the flute and loved it–played all through high school and college. The early piano lessons really payed off in music reading and awareness, so I saw the wisdom in it. As a parent, I really want my child to have a lot of choice and autonomy, but for the long term, I think sports and music get some doors propped open that could really help them later.

  50. This discussion makes me think of how my mom considered both ballet and piano lessons for us as kids (when I was growing up, most kids only did one or two activities outside of school, if any), and decided to go with piano because she figured it was a skill we’d have our whole lives, whereas most adults don’t continue in dance. I really, really wish she’d chosen the opposite, for me at least, because (a) I LOVE to dance and (b) think I would have actually been quite good if I’d started early. I took one dance class in high school, picked it up quite quickly compared to most of the other students, but had already more or less chosen my singing/theater path and didn’t have time to devote to dance as well. I wonder all the time what would have happened if my mom had put me in ballet when I was little (and although I enjoy being able to play simple songs, I never was all that good at piano. Clarinet, now …). I guess the lesson that might pertain to you and your son is to really find out what HE wants and why he doesn’t want to continue with swimming. I played basketball in middle school and wasn’t very good at it, but I really enjoyed it and loved being part of a team – the uniforms! Getting to change in the locker room! Riding the bus to away games! Having a cute coach!(I went to very small middle schools, so “try outs” were essentially sign ups, and there was great pleasure to be had in very small things). To me, enjoying an activity is far more important than being really good at it (assuming there’s enough skill there to at least take decent part).

  51. When I was his age, I was afraid to be on the swim team. If I had had the option to just continue with swim lessons forever, I probably would have taken it. I loved swimming but didn’t know what to expect on the team and was apprehensive so I just quit. Maybe that’s his hold up? I wish my parents would have encouraged me to try it for one season then re-evaluate.

  52. My daughter is very, very good at ballet and quit. Last spring I made her do one more series of lessons and I think it was more miserable for me to go through that last session than it was for her. She didn’t care and it showed in the way she danced. If a person doesn’t actually want to do it even if they have a great deal of talent it just won’t work.

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