Why extra-curricular activities can be a challenge for chronic parents

Small is now six years old, apparently the age at which after-school activities become the plague of family life. I’m joking, I know these opportunities are great for children. And I want to be excited that he can try different sports, join the Scouts or learn an instrument. But to be honest, I am less than enthusiastic.

I’m sure that’s an emotion all parents experience to some degree – I now have a new appreciation for all those hours my parents spent driving me to piano lessons (which I obviously really valued at the time…) But as a parent with a slightly wonky health record, I can feel fearful about taking on mid- or long-term commitments.

The reality of living with rheumatoid arthritis is that I have stretches of time when I feel good and normal life doesn’t feel like hard work. But when ‘flares’ do come, they make life hard and I only want to do the bare minimum. Memories of those times make decision-making tricky – the thought of adding in extra obligations isn’t appealing. Fear can trick my mind into closing off and shutting down new ideas and opportunities.

I know I have a choice in whether I listen to that fear. Here’s a fact: Small has been having swimming lessons for a year and we have only had to miss one single lesson because I wasn’t well. Just one. Most of the time, we have pushed through and gone, and I have survived. So I can choose to look at that experience and be encouraged – we can do this!

We’re not going to be rushing off to activities every day of the week. That wouldn’t be good for me, and I don’t believe it would be great for the kids either. But I really don’t want my fear to be the thing that makes the decisions for us.

Small is not the keenest bean to try new things at the moment, but I know he would love some of these activities if he gave them a go. So I need to encourage him to try new things, rather than accepting his first response (which will inevitably be, “I’d rather play Lego”) just because it fits my agenda.

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