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Afternoons of Nothing

By Hildie Westenhaver

I have just done my most radical act of parenting so far in my fifteen-year career of raising six children: I have pulled my children out of all extra-curricular activities.

Even piano lessons.

Last year I spent just about every afternoon driving little people to various lessons, games, practices and rehearsals. There were the accompanying happy experiences: pride and excitement as my daughter performed onstage for the first time; my sons becoming more flexible and strong through Kung Fu; the sense of accomplishment my oldest two kids felt after finishing well in a golf tournament.

But there was the ugliness of all the extra-curriculars too: the fact that I spent very little after-school time helping kids with homework and just being there; the nagging and quarrelling about practicing, the lack of decent dinners (I always meant to do something in the crock pot, but it just never seemed to happen).

This year instead of becoming more accomplished we are going back to the basics: we will be working on eating good meals together and getting to sleep early. That’s our after-school curriculum now.

If you have school-aged children then you know the pressure to do everything; to try everything. What if you have a future world-class gymnast on your hands or a budding concert violinist?  How will you know unless you expose them to everything, right?  It has finally dawned on me that if I have a world-class anything, I’ll know.  A prodigy’s talents do not hinge on a ballet class taken in first grade.

I’ve had to admit to myself that my children aren’t particularly gifted at any of the activities they have been involved in. And they didn’t really love them. I want them to be passionate about the things they do. I want them to soar and become wonderful. But after a long hard look I realized that most of our activities were just taking up our time and money.

The constant busy-ness has been strangling me. I don’t have a go, go, go personality. I like things calm and unhurried.

There would be lots of tears and complaining, I imagined, when I announced our new plan to not do anything. But no. It seems that we were all pretty fed up with the crazy schedule.

We’ve spent the last two weeks since school began hanging out with each other. I’ve had the time to make a nice meal every night. We’ve enjoyed leisurely dinners together full of laughter and conversation and then gotten to bed at a decent time. The simple life has ended up being pretty lovely.

We still continue to do Scouts and church activities. We’ll probably phase things in slowly. But I plan on keeping the extra-curriculars in check. If a child loves something, that’s fine. But the days of signing kids up just to do something fun are over.

Long live simplicity.

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

47 thoughts on “Afternoons of Nothing”

  1. Hooray for you! My oldest is only in kindergarten, but I've had her and her sister in gymnastics and swimming before. Now that little brother will be arriving any day, I told my oldest that we will try a new class sometime next year.

    I decided early on with my kids that a lot of free-time/imaginitive play was important. We didn't do pre-school, and the oldest is in half-day kindergarten. We go to the park as often as we can, and I try to keep their toys full of things that inspire play (dress-up box, legos, doll house…).

    Private lessons and classes are important to me too, as I never had that as a kid even though I really wanted it. But you're right: If my kids are prone to excel at something we will notice and then we'll support it.

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  2. My rule is to only put my kids in something if they BEG for it (except piano!).

    My daughter has been begging for dance for months, so she started this fall. We'll see how it goes. If her interest wanes, then we won't do it next year.

    My boys have done a couple of years of soccer or baseball until they didn't love it anymore. The novelty kind of wore off I guess. My oldest REALLY wants to try out for the school play, so he gets to. My next oldest isn't doing anything because there's nothing he wants to do. Fine with me. There's always scouts and piano.

    Because of time and money problems (parents divorced so mom worked full-time) it was VERY difficult for me to do anything extracurricular growing up and I wish I could have done more.

    I want my kids to do what they REALLY want to. But I don't sign them up for stuff just to keep them busy or active. That drives me nuts as I am a laid-back kinda mom and I HATED spending Saturdays at soccer and baseball games (don't tell my boys!).

    We'll see how this year goes. It will be my busiest yet, but most things are just dropping off and picking up nearby. I think I can handle that. I can't stand having to sit around and wait (mostly because I have a 2-year old too).

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  3. Good for you! Lou wanted to play soccer with her friends, so we signed her up, but that meant that The Boy had to take a back seat. He gets to sit in the stands and watch his sister for a change. We just had her first practice and he sat and watched and kept telling me what a good job she was doing and commentating the entire practice. I am pretty sure he was pretending that he was a soccer scout. It was really cute. It is so nice to only have one in an activity at a time!

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  4. Bravo! We are trying to find a balance. I only have one kid playing a sport this fall, but he has three practices this first week! That's crazy! (But sports are crazy in Texas). Between a couple of kids in cub scouts, that one sport, dog training classes for my oldest and his dog for a few more weeks, and our callings, life is crazy enough. Even Monday night wasn't sacred because that was the only night the woman I VT had available. But, as my kids get older (and as I get more of them), I am definitely trying to find things to cut out. School, church, family – that takes up most of our time to begin with!

    And amen to healthy dinners eaten as a family and a decent bedtime. The older my kids get, the more I realize how incredibly important these two things are in their lives.

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  5. *Standing up and cheering*

    This is awesome, Jennie. I did a version of this during the summer, and I dare say it was the best summer we've had.

    I know everyone has to make their own decisions, but I do feel there is a lot of pressure to fill our lives with stuff and call that good parenting. I think extras can definitely have their place, but sometimes they are just distractions. I think we need to be deliberate about why we are doing what we are doing.

    Yay for you for figuring out what was right for your family and making it happen.

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  6. I totally agree!! My oldest is just starting kindergarten and since we are doing an online charter school with her I felt it was important for her to do ONE activity outside our home. The hubby and I have already decided that each child can do ONE activity a year plus piano when they are old enough in addition to all the church stuff, I have no desire to be driving kids here there and everywhere for lessons.

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  7. i'm so impressed! sounds like a pretty good idea, right now as schedules are filling up and i feel like a taxi service. keep us posted!

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  8. Good for you. I've done a less radical reduction and we've all been happier for it. ( I do NO extra curriculars in the summer for all the reasons you stated and we enjoy our summers so much more.) Being flexible is the best goal for us moms–when something isn't working for our family at a particular time–do something about it. Re-evaluate again later. You are a good mommy. 🙂

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  9. Fantastic.

    Instead of pulling my kids out of everything (they get two things total– piano lessons and something else. So, it's pretty manageable for me), I pulled myself out of everything.

    Seriously.

    I don't blog like I used to. I quit teaching piano lessons (and got my girls a teacher), I quite my editing job and my marketing job. All of it was work-from-home, but I realized it was slowly killing us all. So, I quit. Now I'm just mom. And I love it!

    So, bravo! Good for you for putting the priority on the family and on the relationships. I'm really impressed –I may even have to back down to one activity eventually, myself… 🙂

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  10. cheryl, amen to your comment, too. About two years ago, when I knew it was time to try to get pregnant with #5, I did the same thing, too. I just cut out most of my own activities so I could balance pregnancy with the demands of four kids. I admit it's been hard (because I like doing my own stuff, but I also know it is a relatively short period of time in my life. I wrote everything that it was I was wanting to do on a list and put it away for later. As I start getting more time back, I'll start adding things in again. Remember the thread recently on what to do once the kids are all in school? I'm hoping that I'll be able to take out that list and start doing some of those things I enjoy again.

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  11. Hooray! I have nine children (4 mos. to 15) so even when SOME of the kids only have ONE activity it becomes insane. We quit doing most summer stuff the year I was VERY pregnant and we all liked it so much that we've never looked back. I have LONG wondered about the cost of extra stuff. It is a constant balancing act but one night when our family was playing a dodge ball game together I started comparing those kinds of activities to outside stuff and thinking about how little time they will have in our home and decided to be more careful. Our most important relationships are with each other and I don't want all of our memories to be of running around to get to places. So HOORAY for meals eaten together and early bedtimes!

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  12. I think that every family has to find their own balance on these things. As others have mentioned, one or two things can be a reasonable limit, depending on the circumstances.

    I didn't take dance lessons until I was in first grade, and while I was never a professional ballerina, it has greatly enhanced my life. I was on the dance team in high school, which was a great experience and kept me from being a total geek. When we moved to Brasil, I was selected to be one of only four women in the ward performing a Japanese fan dance for a stake cultural night. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to be able to serve the ward in that way, without needing to speak good Portuguese.

    I don't think that only kids who are excellent or remarkable in something should get the lessons. Some of us who are just medium can also benefit greatly.

    And I guess I'm crazy, but I really like driving the kids around. It is captive time, when we have some great conversations, and they tell me things they might not otherwise. Albeit none of our commutes are more than 20 minutes one way.

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  13. I was a radical mother like you and I have no regrets. I figured my sons had a Mom at home, a rarity even back then…and I wanted them to have full advantage of that fact. We were always together every afternoon, and always had dinner as a family. To me, those were priceless days. Priceless. As they became older teenagers, most of them became involved in school theater. So we were able to work our schedule around that, but I am so thankful we did not join the race while they were in elementary school.

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  14. Hooray!!! You are absolutely right on the money with this post. I have been doing the mom job for 17 years to four kids. My oldest is 17. My youngest is 2. I do have a rule about one activity per child not including church activities. My oldest two are only involved in those so it's not so bad. My oldest son loves music. He is quite good at playing his instrument so he's in every musical group at our small high school except orchestra. He loves it! It has meant that we have had to make some sacrifices but there is one rule that I have kept in place. You have an appointment for dinner every night at 6pm. Sometimes I have to make an exception such as when he needs to be somewhere early but we make that adjustment as a family at family night. Everyone knows. Even his friends know about this rule (they sometimes come to eat with us). I plan ahead for meals often preparing extra on less busy nights (it isn't a crime to feed your family the same meal twice in one week!). I also try to have my husband help as much as possible, which his work schedule allows him to do. My elementary aged child plays recreation soccer which is played for 8 weeks and then it's over. Practices finish before 6pm and we go to his games, on Saturday, which last 45 minutes, as a family. I've helped my other children with homework at practices. I think the big thing that is important is to figure out what works for you and your family. If you find yourself at a breaking point you need to make some changes. Hopefully you can find something that works for your family.

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  15. Fabulous! I love it. I agree completely. The school day is long enough. I want to be with my kids. I want them to be with each other. With all the value that American culture places on all the extras that are out there, it takes real deliberation to find a balance. I want my kids to learn to clean. I want them to learn to play with each other. I want them to tell me stories about their day. And, I agree that those things can't happen when we're all in a minivan driving from place to place. My oldest is almost 13, and I am trying to savor the moments he is home…it doesn't last forever.

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  16. Amen! I believe we definitely over schedule our children, and therefore, ourselves. Let them show interest and then go from there. Enjoy your calm evenings and homemade dinners together. Those are priceless!

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  17. Good for you! I've been doing something similar lately. We only have 2 kids, so they both take piano, daughter is in brownies (1 x month, right after school at her school) and then activity days for her as well. We were going to sign up for swim tonight, but decided not to at the last minute. I'm so glad! Instead we are going to try and play with the kids to get exercise as a family. The kids love it and so do we. They can get more involved when they are in high school, but right now they are 6 and 8 and this works for us.

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  18. Are we related??
    Like you, I do not thrive under pressure and a busy schedule. Most people watch a good period drama and swoon at the romance. I swoon at the unhurried pace of life.

    We quit music lessons until I found a place that could do all three boys at the same time. Now one plays guitar and two play piano, but we're only gone one hour a week total.
    I love music and never thought I would be telling my 8th grader he needed to quit band, but that's exactly what I did. I'm just not willing to give the high school band my child and most of our money.

    Quitting the sports leagues have saved our sanity. Our boys haven't missed it one bit. The oldest just started cross country this year, and it's the perfect solution. It's just an hour after school and the meets are over in time for a little bit later dinner. The whole family goes to watch him and we have a great time.

    Of course, scouts and mutual is still on the weekly calendar, but if I'm being honest, I sure wouldn't mind if we took the summers off of that.

    Yes, simpler is just plain better.

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  19. Great thoughts and great idea! We spend alot of time doing things that are "okay" or "good"…but, all things come with a price. Good luck! We added games to a couple of our nights…it was the best thing ever!

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  20. I have long known that I was not cut out to be a soccer mom. While I don't mind driving my kids to different activities it SAPS the energy right out of me and when we get back there is nothing left. No good mom, no good dinners, no good evenings together–nothing. Occasionally our lives will get really busy for a short time and I'll be reminded that for me,busy is not ok.

    From time to time I feel boatloads of guilt about what my kids are missing out on. We have families in our ward (with fewer kids and more energetic moms) who's kids do multiple activities all at the same time. I feel so bad that my kids are missing out. But what they will have had is time with me, and time together.

    This year my youngest kids(10 year old triplets) were begging to play soccer. I had actually considered it before some financial problems made it a little out of our price range. So I started talking to the triplets. I asked them what about soccer was so appealing to them. (Since I was relatively sure it wasn't running up and down the soccer field!) It turned out that they just wanted more time with friends, and I am trying to be more careful to be sure that happens this year.

    One thing I have learned as I've discussed this subject with different women is that everyone really has a different threshold for their family's activity level. Some have a low threshold like me. Some are really energized by constant activities. Some moms I've known struggle with handling their kids at home and use extracurricular activities as a way to deal with this. Most moms are somewhere in the middle…

    Sorry for my long comment, and thanks so much for your post. It is nice to know that there are other moms out there like me!

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  21. BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have no kid activities to cut, but my husband and i have cut our drastically. It has made a good situation evern better. We each volunteer 1 place. We have made sure we volunteer the same night and made it once every 2 weeks. I only meet friends while he is at work, at church once a week to quilt. Each supper is homemade and together. Lovely!

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  22. OK, I have a question. I'm totally all for making more time for family and for choosing very very carefully the activities in which our children participate. We've made similar choices in the past, with great relief.

    But how do we manage the balance of SOME important but time-consuming activities with the desire to cut out crazy-making schedules? How important is it to teach our children to excel? If one of our children happens to be very talented at something, how do we choose the balance? If I hadn't practiced the piano from the time I was five, today I wouldn't have been able to serve my friend at her husband's funeral: I played the organ, improvised an accompaniment for two singers complete with interlude changing keys between the two hymns (with 15 minutes notice, and granted, it wasn't a fantastic improvised accompaniment. Just adequate), and played a Chopin Nocturne. If my parents had decided that my lessons were too much for them to handle with the other eight children, I wouldn't have had any of those abilities. Instead, my mom and dad sacrificed much time and energy and money to give me a gift that I am able to use to bless the church, my family, my former students, and my friends.

    I have four kids 3 to 14 and I'm really struggling with this. Practicing seems to take way too much time. Driving kids to lessons is really tricky. Balancing that with schoolwork, sports, Scouts, teaching them to help around the house, and other responsibilities is very difficult. Help! What have you successful mothers done to manage? I HAVE learned that prayer is an important part of learning to balance, but still, some days are just too darned busy.

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  23. This was a timely post for me because we suddenly drastically increased the activity load around here. My second started preschool, my first is in second grade, and then I started teaching part-time at the college. We had my daughter signed up for dance two days a week and that felt like a lot. But then her friend wanted her to join her soccer team and we ended up giving in. It's just for this month (and a month in the spring), but I'm definitely feeling overwhelmed. We've never been this crazy before so we'll see how it feels for our family.

    Every family is different and you will have different seasons in your life. My daughter is very social and loves having activities every evening. I've spent most of her life trying to teach her what to do with unstructured time and she still hates it. She does best with friends and so for now I like having her sign up for activities. We also don't have to drive too far for things and I've found stuff that is low cost. When she is older and more able to go to friends' houses on her own then we may reevaluate. I do try to stay away from reasons like 'everyone is doing it' before adding stuff to our schedule.

    My siblings and I did quite a few extracurricular activities during high school, but we lived close to our school and just walked. My parents didn't come to everything but they encouraged us to do things. We live close to our high school so I hope my kids can take themselves to stuff if they want to do it. I have a feeling this will be an ever-evolving issue.

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  24. That is the most sane thing I've heard today! Yay for you! We try just one activity plus piano and it gets hectic. I can totally see giving it all up to be home. These years are too fleeting to have it go by in a blur! 😀

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  25. I remember that crazy phase, when the kids are all in school doing stuff but none are old enough to drive. We ended cutting back immensely, too (I think it was Karate + Scouts was the solution then.) After that, it became a matter of if you can "transport yourself" (first by bike, then by car) to wherever you need to go, then fine. It does help to live in the central-though-declining part of our town of 85K, because seminary/mutual/school/orthodontist/music lessons are all within reasonable biking distance for a twelve-year-old. We even outfitted our youngest child's bike with a means for toting her trombone, so she can get to band presidency meetings early in the morning on her own. But the busy phase for mom does pass, and quicker than you think!

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  26. Kerri,
    I think the really tricky thing here is that all our situations are really unique. It takes trial and error and lots of thought and prayer to figure out what will work. If you're lucky enough to live like Coffinberry close to stuff, then that opens lots more options for you and your kids. My husband was one of 8 kids, and they all took piano lessons. But, he grew up in Utah and EVERYTHING was within walking distance…the piano teacher, the church for Scouts and Young Men/Young Women, the school, and there was no early-morning seminary to drive to. So, I think there were more possibilities for the kids in his family to do more activities simply because they didn't require a mom's time. I know a mom here in the South where I live who has several kids and regularly drives them around to do stuff, but her youngest ends up watching tons of movies every week on the portable DVD player so he won't be insanely bored during all the driving around. That might work okay for her family. Maybe she's decided that the tradeoff is worth it. Maybe she feels really strongly that her daughters developing their talents is so important that her son might end up doing more media time every week. That is not a decision I would feel comfortable making at least at this point in my life since I believe all that screen time for her son is potentially very detrimental. But, maybe with different kids with different talents, I would make the same choice she is making.

    Another important factor to consider is how stressed out and anxious the family seems as a whole. If I find myself snapping at the kids a lot and I find that they're crying and yelling when I ask them to do their chores, then I know we are too busy. My boys need time and space to play and read and imagine. One of my sons in particular becomes unbearably emotional when he feels rushed whereas my other son thrives on activity and busyness. Both of those sons' feelings matter to me. Then, my younger boys need their older brothers to be around. They miss them so much while they're at school so I tend to be a bit more relaxed during the school year with practice requirements and so forth just so they can have time together.

    Another factor: how long your kids' school day is. The school day here is 7 hours long, and I know in other places, it is shorter. That makes a huge difference if you get an extra 30 minutes or hour each day for your kids. Since my kids' day is on the long side, I'm much more protective of their free time.

    One last thing to consider: our kids are getting far less sleep on average than they did 20 years ago. And, it matters. Check out the book Nurtureshock if you want to read about the possible effects of sleep deprivation in childhood. So, if more practice and more activities means less sleep, it's probably not worth it.

    Sorry this comment is rather long-winded and raw, but I've gotta get back to some stuff happening here! Best wishes, Kerri. Hope you can find a balance that works for you and your family.

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  27. We cut back drastically a couple of years ago. I found we were doing things every evening and occasional saturdays too, some evenings included more than one activity which sent me loopy trying to accommodate them all. At the same time I cut back on what I was doing, I stopped running on a book group (I had 2 on the go at the time), being a school governor and running Rainbows. It helps with my sanity and finances. I certainly don't cope well with pressure and I felt under a lot of pressure to be everywhere. The children still take part in things, but we focus more on one area which they choose to do, my oldest is sporty and number 2 is musical. With church activities and homework this is enough for us. I also insist that everyone is home for dinner each night, it has been one of our rules since the word go. Our children survive doing less and it makes me happy too. Life has to be manageable.

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  28. I wonder about the idea of making kids beg for something–do we really want to teach them that whining is the way to get what they want?

    Also, I'm not sure we can count on them to express an interest. My kids tended to not want to stretch outside their comfort zone. They would want to read all the Little House on the Prarie books (for example), and it was my job as a mom to force them to check out one non-prarie book for every two of their faves.

    I see ages 5-11 as the time to get them to try new things, perhaps one at a time. Then by 12, they will have chosen what interests them, and focus from there.

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  29. I have always kept my kids things to a minimum. If I had my way we would withdraw all but piano, but I have to compromise with my husband and from time to time they do a season of some sport (only if they come to us and ask firs).

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  30. I agree if you're spending all your time in the car, you should decrease the number of extra-curriculars.

    But as a kid of divorced parents, I never got to do anything and always felt bad about it. I wanted to be 'good' at something- not gifted, or spectacular, just good. By the time I was a teen, I wasn't able to try out for anything because I didn't have any experience. I think its so important for them to have that to keep them grounded and focused during their teen years.

    A break is great, but I would put them back in one thing eventually. Maybe get together with other moms and carpool so you're not always in charge of driving. Or only do things that are in your neighborhood so they can walk. Or sign them all up for same thing so its same day, same time.

    We didn't do anything this summer and it was awesome! I totally recommend that if you start burning out during the year. Save summer for lazy days!

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  31. We do very little in the way of extra curricular activities. My personal feeling is that our culture of activities, to supposedly enrich ourselves that can turn into busy work, is too self-centered. Kids go to school everyday to improve themselves, I'm not going to spend their remaining free time insisting that they focus more on themselves, even if it is to develop talents. I believe this gives children a false sense of what life is about.

    Life is about taking a little time to care for ourselves then we go to work serving others. While serving we develop those talents that are most important – love, charity, compassion, creativity, hard work, etc. One of the very best places for this to happen is at home with family members. If we aren't home how will we develop those relationships and understanding of service?

    After all isn't that what we're all about as parents – serving our family? Teaching our children to serve in a family can prepare them for their futures as parents.

    Kerri – There is a Conversation on the Mormon Channel with Sister Beck and her daughters that gives another perspective. They discuss their decision to spend 3 hours every day on piano! She talks about having a vision for your children and your family. That vision is unique to every family and child, it takes personal revelation.
    http://radio.lds.org/eng/programs/conversations-episode-15

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  32. Good idea. But I must say, I hated piano lessons for the first SEVEN years. No kidding. Then finally I realized that it was actually fun and that some pieces sounded beautiful and it was nice to be able to make that beauty. So just because someone isn't a prodigy doesn't mean they won't be able to enjoy a skill they've learned. Not to mention the priceless discipline experience.

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  33. Great thoughts everyone! Even though we've cut out all our activities I still managed to schedule myself to be busy from 9:15-3:45 today. Six solid hours! I have to take advantage of the time when everybody is at school. Now I'm worn out and grumpy just as everyone gets home. Way to go, Jennie! Obviously my plan to have a calm life still needs some fine tuning.

    I do want my children to excel, but I'm learning that excelling means different things at different times in their lives. Right now I feel like it's important for our family to regroup and work on the basics. In the long run (or maybe even the short run) it seems like those things will do them the most good.

    I was a late bloomer growing up and wasn't good at anything in particular. But it's a weird thing that has happened in our society–it's like you have to be good at everything when you're young, otherwise it doesn't count. But I know from my own experience that persuing talents when we are older can be more rewarding. I know I certainly practice an instrument better now that I am playing on my own terms than when I was forced to practice piano as a teen.

    It is important to listen to our children and gauge what their needs are. There is nobody better equipped to decide what our children should or shouldn't do than we parents.

    I don't think that every parent should pull every child out of all activities. It's just that for us, now, it seems to be the right thing to do. Calm and peace are needed in our lives more than T-ball or tap dancing.

    Mom O' Boys–I loved Nurtureshock! That's what got me thinking about my kids needing to have sleep be a priority in their lives.

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  34. When I grew up, I loved playing with my friends after school. The same is not so for my kids as their friends are all involved in extra-curricular activities. I don’t want them sitting around the house watching TV so I have been inclined to put them in some extra-curricular activities as well. I think it is sad this is the case. I would rather have them playing with friends. We do 1 music activity and 1 other one for each kid (if they choose another activity-I force the music and let them choose something as well). I feel the music helps with brain development and the other helps keep them healthy and active.
    Kids are trying things out and trying to figure out what they do like. My sister has a theory on this that I like. She wants her kids each to have 1 thing that they are good at so they can have more self confidence and self esteem. Soccer has taught one of her daughters to be more humble, and has helped a shy one come out of his shell and be more confident.
    It is definitely a personal decision and we all have to find our own balance. Personally, we were told by a Dr. (psychologist) when my oldest was in 1st grade that we needed to involve him in as many extracurricular activities as possible to help his social development. We haven’t gone to extremes (as I said- music plus one other in addition to therapy he needs). It was hard for me as a Mom to justify him being able to do things and have my daughters ask me why they couldn’t as well. I feel crazy sometimes as well, but try to put the time in the car to good use by playing games with my kids while waiting or reading a book together. I figure this is just part of the sacrifice I agreed to when I agreed to be a Mom.

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  35. When we first started having kids we decided that our kids could only do one sport and one music/art activity at a time. I never wanted my kids to have to choose between sports OR music. I think they are equally important. We've stuck to that rule, but when you times that rule by six kids that's A LOT of running around! Especially when you throw in scouts!

    I've never forced my boys to do anything–even piano. At the beginning of each season, I always give them a choice of activities they can do that fits into our budget and time commmitments. ALWAYS one of the choices is NOTHING. Sometimes they choose a break, but usually they don't.

    For us, it all goes in seasons. I have four boys playing football right now. Immediately afterwards, they'll start basketball (they play piano and do scouts too), but after Christmas life mellows out. Knowing we'll get a break makes things seem doable.

    I'll admit that all the running around sometimes makes me crazy (and I'm a go go person!), but its totally worth it for me on game day or recital day. I *LOVE* to watch my kids perform!

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  36. Yes. I get this. I totally do. And I applaud you. AND YET… I felt like I was really cheated out of opportunities to excell in things I loved and had talent for as a kid by having a mother who didn't take anywhere near as much interest in my talents and interests as her own. There were a few things I really loved and was good at. I think I really could have gone far in them. Except no one ever seemed to be listening when I said I wanted to do them. And so here I am, age 36, taking beginning ballroom dancing and wishing like anything that I'd gotten into it when I was 12 or 14 or 16, back when I'd first thought of it and I had the time and flexability. Sigh… There must be a happy medium, right?

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  37. I only have one kid, but we are entering the soccer mom years. And I love it because it gets me out of the house and I can sit and read a book while she dances or tumbles or whatevers. As long as it isn't stressing her out and she can handle it, it's fine with me.

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  38. Kudos! That family time is so important, and most people would agree that kids are over-scheduled these days. Of course, if they have a serious talent for something or really strong desire to do it, fine. But not busyness just for the sake of being busy, right?

    I liked the commenter who said she only gives her kids lessons if they BEG for it. Music might be an exception to that rule for me, though.

    =)

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  39. "I liked the commenter who said she only gives her kids lessons if they BEG for it."

    Why do you like that? Is that really the kind of behavior we want to encourage in our kids?

    As a child, it would simply have never occurred to me to BEG for something. I knew we had eight children in the family and money was tight. So I never thought to complain that I didn't get a first non-hand-me-down dress until seventh grade.

    I wouldn't beg for anything, because I would not dream of causing my parents pain when they couldn't provide it.

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  40. Naismith, this seems like an issue of semantics. Substitute "really desired as opposed to merely expressed a passing interest". My 6 year old wants to do basketball, karate, art lessons, golf, cub scouts, tennis, etc. No way am I going to sign him up for everything he expresses interest in. But, he has expressed consistent interest, repeatedly asking, perhaps even "begging" to be a Tiger Scout – to the point where I realized, "Hey, this kid really wants this bad. Maybe I should seriously consider it" (even though it will basically monopolize every Thursday of our family's life for the next year). Does that mean I taught him to "beg"? No, just to be clear and consistent about what he really wants.

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  41. Jennie, I have been thinking about this post a lot. I mentioned in my previous comment that we've added another scout (to the two I already have). Between scout callings for both DH and I and three cub scouts, all of which meet on different nights, scouts is our life right now. Normally we would head into winter season with three kids in basketball, but after pondering this post, I suggested to our family that we forgo team sports this year and just do "family basketball" for an hour every Saturday. We can work on skills and drills and invite other families to scrimmage with. So, that's what we are doing!

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  42. I am very grateful for the trend in the church in our area to consolidate activity times and places. All youth activities (from activity days and scouts to YM/YW) are held on the same night and time and at the church–except for when the activity precludes it, like serving dinner to the homeless or having a pool party. This beautiful streamlining blesses my sanity every week.

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