Thursday, 01 October 2015 09:24

The after-school (hyper) activity phenomenon

Children - how much do they need to be 'entertained'? Children - how much do they need to be 'entertained'?

It’s back to school, back to routines and back to busy streets filled with cars that seem to be forever stopping at one corner or another to drop off or pick up a child.

I have not decided who I feel sorrier for: myself for having to manoeuvre around those cars on my bike, for the children who seem to have such busy schedules or the parents who are driving around all afternoon on after-school runs.

“Has it always been like this?” I asked one mother. “Yes,” she said “Nowadays more than ever though.” Not having any children of my own, but remembering having spent most afternoons at home when I was a child, I do wonder if there is something wrong with just staying home. We had no or few after-school activities, but I do remember my childhood having been fun and I guess we did turn out quite alright too.

Surely a parent will not get much done apart from maybe a few errands squeezed in? Seeing that most activities are an hour to 90 minutes and many of the main streets are clogged all afternoon because of all those cars, usually with one parent and one child, it does seem to me that this must add up to a lot of driving hours and fuel expenses, probably some irritated tempers and certainly a lot of polluted air.

I keep wondering: if there were buses, would they be used – or are parents just being overprotective and want to drive their children everywhere? Or are children too demanding, schools too boring, not offering enough? Homes too unsafe? Something appears to be off, but even talking to different people about the topic did not bring clarity. I have a lot of friends whom I rarely see once the school year starts as they are forever driving their children somewhere but they have mostly accepted it as ‘the way it is’.

I asked some teenagers and they said they like being busy, but most were also lucky enough to be able to walk to their activities and the rest found nothing unusual about their parents driving them around every afternoon. “Aren’t you exhausted in the evening?” I asked. They all thought about it for a bit and then agreed “Actually, yes,” but in a tone that indicated that this was a normal thing.

As for their younger siblings, one teenager admitted ‘It’s complicated’ when I wondered if the little ones actually wanted to go to all these activities or if it was the parents’ wish.

I teach English to some adorable primary school girls straight after their regular classes for just an hour – and, yes, they love being there because after all, I come with my ‘magical bag’ filled with huge dice and colourful flash cards and funny word games. But even there, some of them need to leave early to be whisked off to a dance class. Is it not all too much, I wonder? Is childhood no longer a time for playing, is the whole perception of it changing as society moves ahead to forever needing to ‘do’ more?

Article as published in The Cyprus Weekly of September 25, 2015 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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