Sunday, October 20, 2013

Overscheduled Family?

For a while now, I feel as if I have been reading opinions or editorials on the disservice parents do to their kids when they over schedule them. While well intentioned, kids feel stressed out by all of the things they need to 'do'.  I read an article about the value of boredom. And I have to say that I'm partial to these articles. I'm partial to the idea that families are important and that spending time with our children is really important.  And that kids shouldn't have to be entertained all of the time. I want my children to know how to entertain themselves. To sit around and come up with an invention. To draw. To sing songs. And to do it on their own accord. As my kids age, particularly in the last six months, I've been surprised that my role as the entertainer is slowly waning. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm "needed" less. And part of me feels that is a measure of success, right? That is what we are tasked to do as parents: to teach them the skills and independence they need to grow up and make their own decisions.

And while teaching decision making skills and independence is a life long exercise and critical to success, some small part of the path to confident young folk, at least in my opinion,  is learning to just BE. To just be themselves. To figure out how to spend an hour when you are in your room and you need to entertain yourself. What do you decide to do?

Seren is excellent at this; she has more practice. That girl creates a ton of things: coasters to hold cold drinks, stories about her guinea pig, adventures in her mind that only she knows about. Wyeth is less strong at this as his time alone in his room has only just begun now that he is dropping his nap.

This is all a roundabout way of saying: how much extra-curricular is too much? How much is too little? We all want to provide our kids with all that we can and provide them with exposure to as many activities as we can. And we want to foster social friendships. Esp when there isn't an organic 'neighborhood' block. But there is a limit, right? Starting a new school has meant new opportunities for us. Afterschool clubs like Chess, and cooking and book writing. And Girl Scouts. And of course, we had her in piano. I feel like my radar is more sensitive and/or my tolerance is lower for the number of activities we need in our lives. And really, the only time I realize that we have overextended ourselves is when we have. And it is too late. And I'm bitter and the kids are exhausted. Our family can't "do" that many activities during a week. We just crumble and fall apart. Between school, work, homework, Girls Scouts, Piano, Soccer on Saturday and now an afterschool "American Girl Doll" club, I feel we are WAY done. And there is paperwork attached to everything! Patches to be sewn, snacks to be purchased, forms to be signed. I'm glad that our commitment to soccer as well as the Doll club are only 6 weeks. We can re-evaluate at that time.

Of course I'm not really asking this question in the hopes of an answer. My kids and my family really know the answer. But it is one of those elements of parenthood that I didn't really think about. "Family time", it feels to me, is really threatened. There is no day during the week that isn't full. My friends and I talk about birthday party invites, soccer games, T-ball, Girl Scouts, school obligations, fundraisers, Cub Scouts, playdate, Bounce parties, etc., etc. My friend Umy used to have what they called Family Day which was Sunday. They typically said no to invites during that day. I don't know if they still do this. But I like the idea of just doing things as a family all day, every day.

And while I'm certainly thinking about it a lot lately, this isn't really an issue for us in that we still do spend plenty of time together as a young family. But is one of those things. We need to be intentional about it. We need to be conscious of it. "How much will this activity cost us- not just financially- but as a family? Does this fit into our vision of we spend our precious time with each other?" If yes, we go for it. If not, we should politely decline.

Parenthood is so complicated!


1 comment:

Beth said...

Oh man--you've been reading my mind! This fall, William is playing baseball and he still does Taekwondo, and Seth is playing soccer. I think the problem is (at least with sports) that the older they get, the more demanding the sports get. Instead of one day a week, it turns to two days a week, or sometimes even three. Add another kid who has activities two days a week, and suddenly, you're in constant motion! It also feels like a lot more (in my opinion) when you work full time. All of that to say, Yes! I struggle with it, too. And I try really hard to make sure the kids are bored sometimes. I've stopped letting them use electronic devices in the car (except for long trips). Or in waiting rooms. And I tell them to go outside and play and I leave them alone. I hope it's having a positive effect. :-)