Practical Dad

“Do I Have To Go?”  Taking the Kids Along

By the time the kids are in preschool, they're starting different activities and sports and it's a no-brainer to take the other kids along.  They're also young and they have no choice in the matter.  But as they age and finally reach a point at which they can reliably be left home alone - and trust me, I've heard some hilarious stories of teens at home - they'll assume that they don't have to go along.  And you'll hear the ageless query do I have to go? when you suggest that they go too.

What are some guidelines on whether to take the older kids?  Here's what we do.

  • If the child is old enough to be alone and it's a practice, then we let them stay home.  The proviso is that any homework must be done (and checked) and if there's a chore to do, get it done.  If you have to stay - which happens with the baseball practice due to distance - then you'll just be reading or doing paperwork anyways.
  • If the event is an actual game or concert, then we overlook the rolled eyes and have the kids come along.  They might not actually pay attention during the event, especially if it's an outside sport with room to run, but they'll usually check in to ascertain how sibling's doing before returning to play.  If it's a concert, then it's another opportunity to learn how to sit quietly and learn the art of patience.  The idea is that they at least become used to the idea as a way to show support, even if they initially - and realistically - aren't.  But as the habit sinks in and they age, they'll spend more time watching and actually cheering for one another. 
  • When the child is older and it pertains to a younger sibling, I've even provided a rationale that was hard to resist.  There's years between the two of you and as he ages, you won't be here to see and cheer.  He'll miss you and you're going to miss everything that he'll do through that time.  But every time that we come to see what  you're doing, he'll be along so take advantage of these events nowIn both cases of elder siblings, they've nodded and acquiesced to coming; they even cheered.

It's irritating to have to contend with the deep sighs and rolled eyes.  But it's important to hold the family line because kids need to know that they indeed matter.  Like many things with children, these practices take considerable time and attention before they actually take root into a deeper sense that holds a family together as it grows and ages.

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