DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Kids' Friend in Oklahoma" cautioned parents about allowing their children to travel with junior sports teams. Obviously, he or she never had a child involved in travel sports.
My 12-year-old son has participated on a travel hockey team for the past six years, and our family has never regretted the decision to let him play. His team schedule involves traveling from one to three hours for nine games -- and staying "home" for the last one. In addition, there is occasionally an out-of-town tournament or two that requires overnight travel.
Abby, these travel games have given my family the very things that "Kids' Friend" suggested would be taken away. While traveling to and from the games, our family spends several hours in the car talking with each other (without interruptions from TVs and telephones), building relationships and memories. We shop for souvenirs or see the sights and have lunch together. We have traveled overnight to several different states -- even Canada. In addition, our children have expanded their friendships with youngsters from other schools, neighborhoods and churches.
Limits are important. In our household, each child is limited to two organized group activities a year, but cannot participate in the two during the same time period. In addition, grades must be maintained and religious education must be balanced with weekend activities. On overnight trips, we arrange with the schools ahead of time for our kids to be away and do their homework while traveling.
Allowing a child to participate in travel sports can be educational and rewarding -- not only for the child, but the entire family. It has nothing to do with having "the guts to say no," being "overeager" or "starry-eyed" -- and everything to do with being a responsible parent, setting limits, and teaching children how to budget their time and make the most of every opportunity. -- HOCKEY MOM IN JOHNSTOWN, PA.
DEAR HOCKEY MOM: Thanks for the other side of the issue. Obviously in your family no one has gone off the deep end and forgotten the importance of getting an education. In life, healthy balance is everything.