Three of my kids are signed up for dance. That’s Wednesdays in the fall. Shaya plays soccer (practice + a game each week). Asher’s playing fall baseball (2 games a week, weeknights, late). Shaya has art class (Mondays). They go to their dad on Tuesdays (Judaic tutoring after school).
Tired just reading it?
Yep, you read my mind. I never wanted to be one of those mothers who over-programmed her family. Frankly, I used to stand firm on the one-extracurricular-activity-per-kid rule.
But they’re getting older and have varied interests and I want them to explore the possibilities of their own talents.
Hence, the extracurricular commitments and me as a chauffeur. I’m shopping for a black cap and glass partition for the car as we speak.
Not to mention my own busy schedule of work, speaking engagements, writing, running a business and oh yeah, I am producing an amazing DIY PR conference the last weekend in October.
So how can a busy modern family possibly simplify in the face of all of these…obligations?
My friend and client Katherine Austin has spent this weekend sorting through stuff at her parents’ northern house in an effort to put everything in its place and eliminate extraneous, unnecessary stuff. I’m sure some great blogs will come from it, but she’s already posted about how necessary it is to do this constantly, since 50 years of stuff piles up to an overwhelming mountain.
It can happen emotionally, too.
When I have days that have an equal measure of work and play (read: down time and intense focused let’s-go-forward time), life is good. I don’t shrug into bed at the end, exhausted and agitated. I have time for good conversations with my husband, for unwinding with a book rather than zoning on Big Bang Theory reruns.
When I can spend time baking, mixing ingredients together to come up with something satisfying and nourishing, life is good. When my only choice is to rip open a package of hot dogs (nitrate-free, no hormones or antibiotics of course), life is on a precarious cliff.
It’s an age-old question: do we give our children all the opportunities in the world at the risk of not teaching them to be still and engage with the silence?
Last week, when the girls, Shaya and I went to register for dance classes, we walked in the summer night after, their balloons trailing toward the cloudless sky, and I explained that the after-school routine will begin with a hearty, healthy snack and focused energy on homework before any other activity can happen. Heads nodded. Their eyes focused on me as I spoke.
Any schedule can run amok, even one lightly planned. And any schedule can proceed with peaceful ease, even one full of opportunities.
I look at all of these classes and sports as opportunities for my children to explore who they are and who they want to be. Learning how to tap into their creativity, how to work with a team, how to manage and balance several obligations at once.
My first semester at the University of Michigan, my parents told me not to work and not to join any extracurricular activities so that I could get used to doing college work. I got the worst grade point of my life because I had so much time that it was too much time.
Second semester, I joined the Michigan Daily, got a part-time job and started dating someone. My grades rose significantly. I focused my study time well, and made sure that everything was in its neat place.
That’s what I’m hoping for this fall. Wish me luck.