The AAA farm team version of the Boy Scouts, our weekly meetings were overseen by a bunch of guys who were clearly fans of old war movies and presided over us with all the warmth of George G. Scott’s Patton.  There was a ritual we had to perform which would involve us reciting some non-sensical pledge of allegiance to Akela, the head wolf.   My sister’s insider info on the female equivalent of the cub scouts, the brownies, revealed a similarly eerie ritual that saw them swear fealty to their head wolf equivalent – Brown Owl.  Aside from this, I just remember playing a lot of dodgeball.


Whereas most kids looked forward to the weekend, I despite Saturdays because it meant waking up early to attend swimming lessons.  The echoing shouts and screams of the other kids.  The impossibility of doing the back crawl without running headlong into the opposing wall or a swimmer headed in the opposite direction.  The sheer ridiculousness of the butterfly, an aquatic stroke so awkward and ineffective that I always considered it the musical equivalent of learning to play the flugelhorn.


I learned three things:  1. How to flip someone provided they are in the exact perfect position (left foot back, right foot forward, left hand gripping my belt, and right hand firmly gripping my shoulder, and leaning forward ever so slightly).  2. How to count to ten in Japanese.  3. How to dye a white belt yellow.


Apparently, the fact that my piano teacher marveled over what she termed my “piano fingers” was enough to convince my parents I was a childhood prodigy, despite my actual lack of anything beyond middling talent.  I took lessons for three years before finally mustering up the courage to tell my mother I didn’t want to do it anymore.  She responded as most any parent would: bursting into tears, tearing my piano workbook in half and then, a couple of days later, buying me a new workbook and suggesting we forget that last conversation.


I went on the recommendation of my cousins, regular attendees, but it was only on my first day that I realized it was a Christian camp complete with bible study, parable-themed plays, and nightly bonfires that customarily culminated in campers baring their fears, anxieties, or minor discretions and then receiving words of encouragement or absolution from the teen counselors.  My sole admission was my honest regret at having chosen Christian bible camp over hanging by the pool all summer.  My counselor could offer no solace.

10 thoughts on “Those Extra-Curricular Activities I Hated Growing Up!

  1. Thanks for the laughs. I visualized everything you were saying as if you were narrating over scenes from a movie. I could see this playing out like “A Christmas Story” or Woody Allen’s “Radio Days”. 🙂

  2. 2. How to count to ten in Japanese.

    I didn’t have to go to Judo classes to learn this…my mother and her Japanese friend, Elise, taught me when I was in middle school. Along with how to use chopsticks. She also brought along with her some 1980s Japanese beachwear for boys (which made me look like one of those characters from those stylized beach-scene rice paper paintings you see during Japanese art exhibits in the US). In my neighborhood, it just got me beat up.

    I still remember the numbers…ichi…ne…san…she…go…locku…sechi…hatchi…ku….ju. The spellings may be off, since I learned these phonetically, but I can still recall Elise taking me through the sequence over and over again. However, that is 90% of the Japanese I know (which is pretty sad really).

  3. Scouts

    I managed to miss this one. Some of my sisters were Brownies, I think, but I had no interest in Scouts. Too much outdoorsy stuff!


    My Mum used to be a swimming instructor so I was literally swimming before I could walk! We were packed off on a Saturday for formal lessons when we were a bit older but I think I mostly enjoyed it. We always had a backyard pool so swimming was second nature.


    Same as you except it was Karate. I was looking for a quick and easy way to deal with the bullies at school. It turned out Karate was not it, contrary to what The Karate Kid taught me!


    Thankfully my childhood was mostly musical instrument free. We had a piano in the front room but nobody ever seemed to play it. I briefly dabbled with the guitar but rightfully gave it up before my parents forked out any money actually buying anything!

    Summer Camp

    This doesn’t really exist in Australia the same way it does in North America. The long summer holiday coincides with Christmas so most families stay together. The closest I ever got was being sent to “Computer Camp” each day for a week where I learned to program BBC Micro computers in LOGO and BASIC. It was awesome and set me up for my career in IT!


    I’m not sporty but my parents thought it would be good for me to get some exercise. I enjoyed training and playing friendly games but as soon as I had to compete in a proper competition I hated it. I didn’t like the potential of letting the team down with my ineptitude. Too much pressure!

    Other than that I had a pretty extra-curricular-free childhood. I feel sorry for today’s kids who seem to have every spare moment taken up with after-school clubs and sports teams and other planned events. There doesn’t seem to be any room for self-guided play and spontaneity.

  4. I had some similar experiences minus the piano and judo. Mine was dancing, modern jazz which I liked but I was given the choice of going to a birthday party and going to dance class. I chose the party.

  5. I know mom was a den mother for my brothers when I was little, I have vague memories and have seen the photos. I was raised both in the Navy (moved a lot) and a Mormon (girls had their own church program, Girl Scouts was too progressive). MyLarry was a scoutmaster for the Cub Scouts on base in Japan, as most of their fathers were at sea too much to participate. He’d been an Eagle scout and we didn’t have kids, so he loved being in the program. (I just made myself cry).

    I didn’t get lessons of any kind, I guess between the Navy moving around and Dad being a cheapskate, and mom not driving, I was left to my books and my crayons. Once we were back in Utah, I was forced to play church basketball and go to girls church summer camp. As a result, I have a lasting loathing of organized sports, summer camp, homogenized mean girls, and The Church.

    As it turned out, the only club I ever enjoyed was being in the Navy. And Burning Man.

  6. You were a lucky kid! We were too poor for lessons on anything. So as an adult, I tried a few different things. Fencing, bat mitten, Spanish, yoga, cake decorating, kung fu, karate and my husband taught me to swim. I swim every week day and love it! I do agree about the breast stroke. It’s weird and seems inefficient. It’s probably a good work out though.

    As a result of my childhood, I did push my son into all kinds of lessons but HE asked to take piano at four and was good at it. He later switched to saxophone. We went from the beautiful tones of classical piano music to the sounds of whales dying. It was a tough transition for us.

    Kudos to your parents for providing you with a great childhood! P.S. Judo sounds fun. 🙂

  7. I’ve been there, my friend. But I actually liked swimming lessons. To this day, I’m like a fish. Love the water. Well, pool water. I like to stay on top of the food chain.

  8. Dude, I would have loved to take judo as a kid, we had way, way too many kids in our family so we had a choice of one activity or zero activities. I loved Girl Scouts which was mostly jump rope, tag, singing rounds, but the pledge? I would kinda mouth the words as I struggled to find the page in my mint condition handbook. And I lost all but a two of the badges, which I franken-stitched on myself. I suspect my little sister was stealing my badges, but I haven’t gotten her to confess to it. Occasionally we’d make something; my wood serving platter collected dust in the china cabinet for years to come. But usually we’d play and scream until pick up. I’m also jealous that you advanced in Judo. I took the advancement test in college and ended up with yet another white belt, which the instructor announced without any irony, bless him.

  9. I played netball, which I loved and had swimming lessons, which I mostly loved. The only things I didn’t like about the lessons were the swimming caps and the long drive home afterwards. I can perform most strokes, but I’m hopeless at butterfly.

    Cheers, Chev

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