By Katie Moosbrugger
“I wish we could go back to the days when my kids simply came home from school, played in the yard, finished up homework without being told to hurry up, and we had actual time to sit down and enjoy dinner together as family.”
This comment came up at my child’s baseball practice – after one mom had to leave early to pick up another child at a different event, after another mom arrived late because of homework battles, and before one of us said Johnny won’t be at the game because his violin practice conflicts.
For some of us, this is life as we know it. But for others, it’s completely foreign. Some of us (parents and kids) thrive on busy schedules, while some of us avoid it like the plague. Some of us sign our kids up without their input, while some of us wait for our kids to ask. Some of us can’t imagine a season without an activity, while some of us welcome the break every now and then.
My family falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. But even though we’ve been in this routine for nearly six years, I still wonder if we are doing this right. Basically, in our house we have two rules on this subject: Limit one activity per season, but please pick something!
So far so good. Kids are happy, and mom and dad are happy. These rules have held without complaints and with few exceptions, but they’re getting tougher to keep. Practices are getting longer and more frequent, travel to/from games is getting further, homework is more challenging to complete, and the pressure to join other clubs, classes and activities is growing (from other kids and parents, alike).
I am not complaining because my kids are not complaining. At least not yet. Plus, right now I’m thrilled my kids are interested in something! They each have tried a handful of activities, and I think they’ve settled on their favorites. They’re starting to hone in on what they love, and even practice when they’re not at “practice.”
But then I get that dreaded mommy guilt when I see the guitar Santa delivered three years ago that has gone touched. Or I when I hear an instructor tell my daughter that she has an untapped gift in drama and should really try acting. Or when I see my kids almost win a summer swim race because they’re just not as strong as the kids who swim year-round.
I want them to do it all, and to be exposed to it all. (If you haven’t noticed, the Triad is rich with extracurricular activities! ClickHERE to see our directory of Arts & Enrichment Programs, and HERE to see our directory of Sports Programs.)
Yet even if I had all the money and time in the world, I don’t think I’ll stray from our current house rules . Here’s why:
~ We need at least one activity per season because my kids get bored easily, and if they did nothing for a season, we would all go nuts.
~ If we didn’t have an activity to break up the homework and around-the-house-and-neighborhood play, it would be a very long week.
~ Deadlines work well in our house. So if the kids have a reason to finish homework and chores by a certain time, everything gets done cheerfully.
~ My kids are loving what they are involved in, but they are not feeling burned out or overwhelmed.
~ I think my children are talented but they’re probably not Olympic material, and we’re OK with that.
~ If my child is not enjoying an activity, I do expect them to finish the season, the class, or at least what we paid through. They don’t have to do that activity the next season, but we do encourage they pick something else.
~ If they can’t decide on an activity, then we pick one for them.
~ We stick (mostly) to one activity per season because I’m not the best mom when I am tired, stressed or over scheduled.
~ Not having something every night is a good thing around here. Quality time with mom and dad works wonders with my children’s demeanor.
~ I may not love to cook, but I do love having the time to cook and having family gather around the table together.
Maybe you think I’m demanding, maybe you think I’m stifling future potential, or maybe you think I’m spot on. Either way, I’d love to know where your family falls on the spectrum of extracurriculars. Where is your happy place?