My kids are only 6, 4, and 14 months, but already with my 6 year-old I can see how it is easy to overschedule. I decided, before it was ever an issue, that I would allow one musical instrument (mandatory) and one activity per child. Well, my oldest did ballet last year and wanted to do it again, plus tap, this year. I agreed to the tap since the tap class met right after ballet and it would still only mean one trip to the dance studio per week.
Then, she wanted to try soccer because her friends liked it. My whole life I have been a total anti-jock (like matter and anti-matter!), you know the type – picked last for gym. Maybe it was even YOU the nasty jocky-type who said: “Well, I guess we’ll take HER, (big sigh plus flip of the oh so perfect jocky hair)…that’s OK, I forgive you… but… I digress. Anyhow, being far from a jock myself, I am very sensitive to the fact that I should afford my children every opportunity to do sports if they want to. After all, they say it IS good for you, right? So I said yes to the soccer (Saturday).
Then my 4 year-old son wanted to try soccer too…and dance! So just to be fair, I enrolled him in soccer and ballet too. Unfortunately his ballet is Wednesday, my daughter’s is Tuesday. Plus, their school offers an after-school art class one day a week (Thursday) that they absolutely love! We are now in three activities each, not including the musical instrument that they will do in the future, not including girl scouts that my daughter wants to do too, not including gymnastics, not including horseback riding, not including blah blah blah. You get the picture.
I rationalize this year’s situation by saying to myself that soccer season was only through October so it was a short commitment, therefore they are really only in two activities each (art and dance). I have not told them about the existence of T-ball or Little League. Until they hear about it from their friends and express an interest I am not going there!
They are 4 and 6! I want them to act like 4 and 6 year-olds. I want them to play, imagine, run around outside, lie on their backs and watch the clouds, build sofa cushion forts … not race from dance, to girl scouts, to sport, to art, to music, to whatever!
So next year, I am going to try and enforce my rule. If my daughter wants girl scouts, then dance or art have to go. We live in a small town with very few choices. What do people do in larger places where they have a whole smorgasbord of fun, educational activities to choose from?
I can see that it can become more and more difficult to avoid the overscheduling issue as children get older. However, I refuse to let us get sucked into that trap. I don’t want my kids to need their own personal secretary before they are even out of elementary school. I don’t want to give up family dinners because so-and-so has practice. I don’t want to spend my afternoons and evenings driving all over town.
And what will happen when the baby gets older and wants to do dance and soccer and art and music and Japanese lessons and baby spelunking and luge team and blah blah blah? That will be three kids who all have different schedules and needs. NOT AN OPTION!
I hope I have the strength to say NO despite the fact that their friends will have increasingly more complex schedules. Am I denying my children educational opportunities with this attitude? I really don’t think so. I think and hope that my children are the ones who will benefit from having a chance to check out ants and dig in the dirt while their friends are all off doing karate and whatever.
What do you remember most fondly from your childhood? The ballet lessons or building snow forts with your little brother and the neighborhood kids?