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Afternoons of Nothing, part. 2

By Hildie Westenhaver

Last summer I noticed that nobody in my neighborhood actually mows their own lawns anymore. We don’t live in the kind of fancy neighborhood where it’s standard for landscaping companies to do all the work. But my son was regularly the only boy I ever saw pushing the mower. His friends told him that they were too busy with practices and daily doubles to worry about yardwork. I thought about this all summer. I also thought about how lovely it was to have a nice unhurried dinner every evening. And how much more cheerful my children were when they went to sleep at a decent time.

As summer wound down I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sign up for another year of rushing my kids around. So I didn’t. I didn’t sign us up for any extra-curriculars. And I blogged about that decision here last September.

Part of our problem stems from the fact that we just have A LOT of kids. Most parents have told me that they allow each child to participate in one after-school activity. That sounds utterly sensible if you have two children. But six children makes that impossible. Good thing our kids can check off “learning to be on a team” just from living in our family.

The surprising thing about our little experiment is the reaction from other parents. Almost without exception they have been jealous. “You are so lucky,” they whisper. One woman I talked to at a party burst into tears. “That’s what I want. I‘m too tired to go running or do anything for myself. I was thinking about starting anti-depressants.” All because she feels too guilty to take her sons out of football (I know it’s Texas, but anti-depressants aren’t a good trade-off for football!)

The big question I get most often is, “Don’t your kids feel bad?” Not really. I gave them a little speech about wanting to scale back a little and there hasn’t been much discussion. I thought there would be all sorts of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but everyone has seemed happy jumping on the trampoline, doing puzzles or playing computer games. My nine-year-old daughter has been an avid ballerina, but at the end of last year she was hating lessons. I told her we’d try a little break and if she wanted to start up again, we would. Just not right away. That has seemed reasonable to her. She has barely mentioned ballet in the last five months.

One friend has three teenage sons and was aghast at our plan to drop out of sports. “Boys need that outlet! They have to occupy their time with something physical or they’ll get into trouble!” While I do agree that boys need to keep occupied, I think some need physical activities more than others. My boys seem to get most of the exercise they need riding their bikes to school and back every day.
What I have wanted most I have gotten: to keep weeknights sacred; to make a nice dinner (OK, some nights we still order pizza but it’s not because I’m too busy) and to hang out with my kids. I want to make sure that everybody gets their homework done and gets a good night’s sleep. I want my kids learn to do chores because, call me crazy, I think that learning to mow lawns and scrub bathrooms is going to be a lot more helpful than learning to do a pirouette or make a field goal.

I don’t plan on never letting my kids do extra-curricular activities again. We will add them back in gradually. My boys were interested in wrestling recently and went to the first practice. One son hated it, the other liked it, but I explained that he could choose between wrestling now or baseball in the Spring. He chose baseball. Practices begin soon.

I have realized that I need to be more thoughtful about adding activities to my children’s schedules. When my child commits to an activity there is a cost to the entire family. Not only is my child enrolled, but I am enrolled as well. I will be sitting at lessons and games, not at home. Or I will be dragging the other children along too. There is a price the family pays and I need to remember that.
My child must have a strong desire to be enrolled in something for it to happen. Playing soccer because his friends are is not a good enough reason. And if my child hates it, I’m not going to crack the whip to continue. If it means that five years of riding lessons were for nothing, then so be it (take that, Tiger mothers!) They have their whole lives to explore their interests. You can actually take a ballet class or learn to play the guitar as a grown-up! Has the world forgotten that?

The thing I wish that I could teach parents is that they need to think about what’s best for their family in the long run. For some parents it’s taking a hiatus from everything. Some families are lucky enough to have piano teachers down the street and tennis lessons around the corner; extra-curriculars fit easily in their schedules and are not much of a drain. For some parents it’s putting themselves first. A miserable mother affects her entire family. If running around all afternoon is making you crazy, then stop. What is the worst that can happen? Your children are disappointed? (Oh no! Not that! How will they ever live without doing cheer for an entire season?)

The important thing is to be prayerful. The Lord wants you to have a happy family. He will guide you, I promise. But you also need to have the courage to do what is needed. That requires the strength you have been given as a mother.

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.

29 thoughts on “Afternoons of Nothing, part. 2”

  1. This is just what I need. Mother of 3 littles, oldest is 6. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I agree with so much you said. But most of all, your wrapped it very appropriately. DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR FAMILY.

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  2. I've been thinking about this very thing lately. It seemed reasonable for my 8 year old to do 1 sport and 1 instrument, but with Cub scouts on top, he has something every day after school. His swim lessons are less than a mile away, which is convenient, and his younger brother wants to do the same activities, so that wouldn't really cause more driving. On the other hand, I really love Fridays because they are peaceful – no one has anything going on. Hmm. I'm going to think about this some more.

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  3. Right after I posted this I got an email from my son's new baseball league about a separate team he can try out for. It's "a select baseball team that was formed a few years ago from several recreation baseball players/families that wanted to play more baseball than the typical recreation season provides. Usually 30-40 games per season."

    More games??? Who are these people? I sense my aloneness right now.

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  4. you are NOT alone. i'm right there with you jennie! it's going by way too fast for me to farm out my kids. i am their mother, they need to be with me too and not just teachers and coaches!

    last spring, in the throes of pregnancy, we scaled back. i took my kids out of everything… and it was wonderful! we spent everyday after school on projects that interested them and even with homework we had time to take hikes or go to the playground or lay around in the backyard before having dinner. together. at the kitchen table.

    i'm not against letting them do their thing, but they have to be really passionate about it and be their own motivator. and so far, that's really only a couple of things (that alternate seasons! yay!) with my oldest (who will be 10 in two weeks). my 5 & 7 year old really just like to play. and i think that's how it's supposed to be.

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  5. Frankly, not finding a piano teacher that my kid can walk to means that he has yet to start the piano. The idea of driving them all over creation is absolutely not appealing, not even a little. And they have chores to do around the house to make them responsible people.

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  6. Jennie I applaud you!

    We have scaled back around here the last few years and I must say it makes for a much happier mom and a much smoother home life.

    I brought you up as an example in on of our previous Relief Society meetings (the lesson was on putting the most important things first) and I got audible gasps from the crowd when I told them you had pulled your kids out of everything for the year. Yet, several women afterward came up to me and told me how insanely jealous they were and their dream was to do the same thing.

    You are a great example to me.

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  7. I loved this. We too have learned the hard way the importance of scaling back. And we are happier and more unified as a family because of it.

    A couple of years ago I realized that I have a lot to offer in terms of teaching my children. While I grew up on lessons and activites of all kinds, I never learned how to cook, take care of a home, be creative in any type of craft, etc. At the time we were so overscheduled that I didn't have time to teach them what I wanted to. So we made time by pulling out of most activities. Now my 10 year old can bake and decorate a cake as well as I can and all five of my kids are comfortable in the kitchen. My children have a love of literature. They are creative and resourceful. Inspired by a Jim Henson exhibit they crafted an elaborate puppet theatre and puppets and wrote and performed an original script. And they know how to clean a bathroom, among other talents. 🙂

    However, I especially love how you ended your piece acknowledging that there are different paths for different families and that we can find these through prayer and revelation.

    And an idea about piano…

    This year we added piano in for my 8 and 10 year olds (10 year old had had one year in first grade). I hired a neighbor girl to come to our house for $10 a week. In an hour and fifteen minutes I get in two 30-35 minute lessons which I teach. The going rate here is $25-$40 per half hour lesson so we save money, but better yet, I get scheduled one-on-one time with my oldest girls.

    I had never taught piano before, but I figured this was our answer to not driving across town and spending an hour and a half plus in the car with kids watching DVD's. My younger kids love the baby-sitter and look forward to their weekly playdate with her in the basement so it is an all-around win-win. This wouldn't work for everyone, but it has been an inspired blessing for us.

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  8. This is funny to read since I am just in the process of trying to sign my kids up for MORE stuff. I have 3 kids old enough to be doing stuff. My oldest is in middle school and she is sad that she didn't make the volleyball team. She is now going to practice for the next year plus wants to be in whatever league or camp so she can make the team. We'll see.
    It is a little hard for my husband. He was naturally very athletic and went to college on an athletic scholarship. However, I'm more scholastic so that is what I do with my kids. They know all the states and like math and reading. My husband is going to be pretty sad if they are all sports failures so I make half-hearted tries to expose them to things so that they have a chance to practice. Practice is more important than natural talent and if the kids never play a sport they will never enjoy them or get good at them.
    A little bit of tiger mother is good!
    But……I am just coming off of months of hardly anything so I am relaxed and refreshed!

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  9. I think there's a happy medium, but like you said, sometimes you just need to step completely out of the picture and wait awhile before getting back in the game. I can see how just "cutting back" may not be enough space to be able to really prioritize and decide whats right for your family. You may need a complete break.

    But as a child, my self esteem suffered because I wasn't good at anything. I was "okay" at a bunch of things, but never excelled, and I really wish my parents had allowed that. I have some natural talent, but was never able to expand upon it, and ya, I could do it now, but really…its not the same, and I don't have the same desire and definitely not the time. I was always uncomfortable playing sports (still am) and can't perform in front of crowds (though I really wish I could).

    Its not really the activity that's important (like you said, usually no one actually goes on to do ballet or football professionally) but its the learning and experiencing that is. To work hard, and learn to take direction, and practice, and feel pride when you succeed, and learn to fail graciously and how to double your efforts for next time, and how to perform in front of an audience, etc. I'm not sure you can really learn all that from mowing the lawn or playing a board game.

    However, I completely agree with you that it needs to be kept to a minimum (we don't need to raise mini-super stars that sing/dance/act/model/etc), and there's no problem in taking a break from it all for awhile.

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  10. And I don't do anything that causes me to drive across town. Even if it means going to a teacher with less skill, or someone who is slightly more expensive, we opt for who is in the neighborhood. And I always try to find a friend to sign up with us so we can carpool, too! That helps so much!

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  11. Thanks for your perspective, Jennie! I love what you're doing.

    As the mother of eight, including a nine-month-old who STILL doesn't sleep well at night (up 3 times last night) I've had to really look hard at how many outside activities we are doing.

    One thing that's stood out to me was an article I read about developing your own family's identity, rather than rushing about trying to do everything everyone else is. I wrote about it on my blog a few weeks ago: http://handsfullmom.blogspot.com/2011/01/developing-family-identity.html

    Thinking hard about what make our family unique and what is worth doing has helped me to let go of the pressure and the guilt.

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  12. I couldn't agree more. They grow up and leave home so fast, why spend ALL the time rushing to get to stuff? I played sports in high school one right after another until we moved just before my junior year. That year things we scaled down and the next year I didn't do any. I enjoyed that year the most of all. I'm not saying I didn't learn anything or enjoy the other years, but I finally had time to think or take naps or read books or just hang out with my friends. I think a balance is very important but it is SO, SO important to remember that NOT having something on the calendar can allow for other really good things to happen! We used to do summer soccer and it nearly killed us every year until we quit. Our summers are still full but we aren't sad we aren't running all over the place! A side note–one sport I want my children to understand how to play is basketball–this is one they will run into over and over again. But to know the basics is a far cry from having to be the star. (Unless they WANT it bad enough to shoot hoops when they have nothing else to do.) One more thing. One of my friends wanted her little boys to know how to play baseball but she didn't want the time commitment (or expense) of little league so she took one afternoon a week to teach her boys and any other boys (mine went) who wanted to learn. I thought it was a great compromise to sitting in the bleachers three times a week for hours on end!

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  13. I'm not a mother, and I'm very young, 20, so my perspective is a bit different.

    I did everything in high school. My mom said I could try anything I wanted as long as I finished a season, and with one exception (an injury) I did. I did two plays, a season of tennis, a season of swimming, marching band for three years. During my senior year (I could drive) at one point I was in band, taking lessons, and playing in two orchestras outside of school.

    Until I was thirteen, I took gymnastics. I spent eight years in the sport and competed for four of them. During my competitive years, I spent twelve hours a week at the gym, and more in the summer. It wasn't until recently I've understood the sacrifice for my mother, but I wouldn't have chosen anything else.

    Maybe some children thrive with unstructured free time, but I was not one of them. Had my mother made a similar decision for me and my siblings (there are four of us) I would have been incredibly upset. For me, gymnastics taught me so much that housework didn't. It taught me precision and passion and discipline in a way that school or being at home couldn't even touch. Gymnastics requires intensive conditioning and constant practice, and dare I say it, hard work. And I loved it, so much. I quit due to a move, but then music did the same thing for me.

    Every child is different and I can honestly say that those activities that my mother carted me around to were extremely important in my development. In college, I still enroll in those activities. They're different now, but I need something besides school, work, and home. I'm taking this semester off extracurriculars because I got married and am working more, and I miss them so much.

    This was much longer than I anticipated, but I just wanted to point out that while all the activities are sometimes exhausting for mothers, they aren't a total waste. And when I was older, I paid a little of my debt by carting my siblings around.

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  14. I totally agree that there are times and seasons for our children and families. When I am prayerful about our choices and listen to the spirit, I am sometimes led in surprising paths. What I've found is that there is no one right answer, even within our family. Some times include much busy-ness, and some are much calmer. I think when I've said "This philosophy will always be right for our family," I've been proven wrong again and again. In times past, we've been inspired to cut some activities, but lately, the Lord has inspired us to add MORE activities at a HIGHER cost (financially and in terms of time commitment.) I've had answers that certain activities are necessary for my children's development at this stage in their lives.

    Simplification is wonderful when it's the answer for your own family. But when it's not, it's wonderful to have the blessing of the spirit to confirm that your own choices are equally valuable to the Lord. I certainly wouldn't be the person I am today if my mom hadn't made the commitment to drive 4-7 other children with her to take me to my piano lessons 30 minutes away from home. This was a gift from her to me that I will always cherish. It has served my own family and others uncountable times over the years, and it was NOT easy on her, but it was what was right for us. With that said, though, even though she made many many sacrifices for my musical education, she also made it clear that family and church service came before music. It was a hard line to walk, I'm sure.

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  15. I see your experiment working on two levels. First, you are making your children think hard about their activities and the time they take from family time to do. That way they are doing activities that they truly enjoy and not just for the sake of doing something. Second you are making other families think about their own priorities. I think it is a great thing you are doing.

    I agree with Kerri. Family and church service come first. Then other activities come later. We have always emphasized this in our home. If my son has to miss activity night because of a music concert or competition he feels horrible. Then there are those youth in our ward who consistently miss activity night because they are involved in sports and their parents support that. I don't like the message it sends. I know it's not my child but it becomes hard for other youth to keep going when others are slacking off.

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  16. "I want my kids learn to do chores because, call me crazy, I think that learning to mow lawns and scrub bathrooms is going to be a lot more helpful than learning to do a pirouette or make a field goal." Amen! I want my children to understand that life is not all about them, nor about being busy or entertained constantly.

    I didn't participate in sports much growing up so I don't see the huge value in them. Not being in structured activities taught me creativity to entertain myself with the materials available and social skills because I had to make friends with the kids that lived nearby and my siblings. I also agree that I learned teamwork from being in a family.

    The actual monetary cost is something to consider as well. For the price of putting all of my children in one activity we could have a nice family vacation.

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  17. This is something that we have been struggling with lately (my husband actually sent me this post). Right now we have two boys in wrestling, one of them in scouts, a daughter in scouts and basketball and all three of those in piano. Plus I'm due in 6 weeks with baby #5! My husband is YM president and I'm Primary president. We are rushing off somewhere every single day of the week, whether it's practice, a game or extra church meetings. Let's just say I'm exhausted.

    I feel bad that I have fallen into the trap of trying to expose my kids to all the possible extra-curricular activities and am really mad at all the wasted money! The only thing that a natural gift has been shown for is my oldest daughter with baton and the parade and practice schedule for that just wore us out as a family. But while she has a talent for it, she was still more interested in playing in the backyard than rushing off to practice.

    Thank you for writing this post. I feel it is an answer to my prayer. We will not be signing anyone up for baseball tomorrow and will probably not be doing football and cheer in the fall. I think we will just stick to church activities from now on. After all five kids is a team too, right?

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  18. i am a friend of whitney ingram's & found you through her. i love this. although i can't wait to put my almost-3-year-old daughter in a little ballet class, i don't plan on letting extra curriculars run my life. you are right, there are much more important things.

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  19. Love that you have done this! We've never done a huge amount of extra stuff, but took a break this year, besides school and preschool, mainly because of the new school schedule and me being pregnant with #3. I do think its allowed us to get into our new routine (this was our first year of full day school and its been brutal on all of us.)

    We're just gearing up for some activities–swim lessons next month, but both kids have class at the same time, so it will only be 45 minutes of me sitting there watching them (which I don't mind at all) and only disrupts 2 evenings a week for 5 weeks. That's the type of activity I like–short and sweet and involving everyone at once. That's actaully a huge appeal of swim team to me–multiage and sex practices so they could both do that together!

    I have felt guilty that my almost 7 year old hasn't started piano yet, but then I remind myself that she still has lots of years, I don't care if she is a professional, and she hasn't asked to take lessons, so i don't think she cares. We'll get around to it someday.

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  20. Well, I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps (of course, I don't have kids old enough to ask for 3 seasons of sports, an instrument and ballet yet). I really enjoyed and learned a lot from the few extra curriculars I did as a kid. I loved playing volleyball at school. I loved the school play. I loved ballet (for a while), and wish I had continued it past that one horrible teacher that made me want to quit. And, of course, taking 10 years of piano has benefitted me throughout my life, both personally and socially. I'm grateful for the opportunities I had to play team sports, develop my musical talents, and get involved in social activities at school. In fact, my one big regret about my youth is that I didn't have a mother who cared as much about my development and interests as her own. I think I had some really amazing talents that never got developed because she was too busy with her own lessons and classes (one thought against waiting until you're an adult to do those things).

    On the other hand, already I feel the energy being sapped from me and the quality of our family life being compromised by the few activities my kids are involved in. Even when I have a playgroup Monday, gymmastics on Wednesday, and a doctor's appointment on Thursday, I feel harried, rushed, frantic, unorganized, and exhausted. I can't even imagine how mothers do it who let each of their kids play one sport and one instrument EVERY season.

    So I suspect for me, there will be a middle ground as my children get older. I want to give my kids the chance to try things they are interested in–I don't want them to regret their youth like I did because they were never supported in their interests. But like some other mothers have said, I will let it be on their shoulders to maintain interest in that one special sport or activity that they love and have passion for. I will not force, I will not cajole, I will not do it if they won't practice or if they ever whine about games, practices, and recitals. I want them to have that chance to discover their talents, but I won't sacrifice thier overall education (including household, religion, family interaction) for it and I won't make myself insane running around doing multiple things every day.

    I think, finally, that your idea to choose carefully, pray about it, and don't be afraid to take a break from ALL of it is a great idea.

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  21. I needed this post this morning. I am surprised how hard it is to be strong enough to choose what is right for your family, whatever that is.

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  22. My siblings and I were all on swim team growing up. Every day in the summer, my mother would drop all of us off at 5:30 am and then pick us up at about noon (except on Fridays when we got to stay and play until 5 pm). While some were in swim team practice, the others would play tennis or golf.

    Here is the clincher: my mom never stayed. Never. I see now that it was HER time to have us occupied and to spend our energy. We live in a different time where mothers feel a need to stay and watch–to protect. (and I also see that it took a lot of money for my parents to afford this luxury; money I cannot imagine spending.)

    I am definitely in the LESS is more camp. My 9yo daughter wanted to join the school choir (which is free and held BEFORE school). That's my kind of extracurricular. I love being home as a family at night, letting my kids relax and play after school, chores, and homework, etc.

    Thank you for letting me see that I am not alone in this.

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  23. This post and Part I of it are brilliant. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think the most important thing is to be thoughtful about the whole thing and be sensitive to the general climate of the home and family. As you've said so well, household chores and hanging out together are important….and probably much more important to our children's long-term well-being and happiness than one more lesson or one more team. There is a very smart book called "The Blessing of a B Minus" which which is all about raising teenagers, and the author spends a fair amount of time talking about the value of regular, ordinary jobs and chores. Thank you for this!

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  24. I agree that you have to do what is best for your family. I am one of seven children, and my mother made a similar decision to you when we were all still at home. I hated it. I was very lonely, and as the only Mormon family in the area, people assumed we did it because we were Mormon. This sort of confused us with Jehovah's Witnesses and I found that I was not longer invited to birthday parties, etc. My mother still busied herself with church things- canning for our food storage, sewing clothes for us– but as a result, she spent little time with us. We fought constantly, so bitterly that most of us still don't speak after 20 years.

    When I finally hit highschool, I made some friends and decided to leave the church because of my negative childhood association with isolation. Even in highschool, I spent most of my time with friends who were from single-parent or two income homes because their parents couldn't invest time in doing afterschool things. Drugs and alcohol were never far. I did return to church in my early 20's, but only half of the now-adult 7 of us are considered "active"… and even that is a strech with all but 2 of us. My mother is now raising some of her grandchildren as a result of two of her four daughters becomeing pregnant under age (they were bored and lonely!). I am not close to her, as I tired from hearing her say how she is constantly amazed because she thinks she was such a good mother to "protect" us from "outside influences".

    So- while I understand your point and I think excessive sports, etc are useless, I would be very sure that your children are not socially isolated from having friends, that you have the time to really ensure your children's needs are being met and make sure you never, ever ignore your otherwise unsupervised children because you are cooking, sewing, or doing a calling.

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  25. AMEN! This year we got so busy with cub scouts (3 boys in 2 different packs, plus me as a leader in both packs) that we had to say goodbye to city sports for a while. I think I mentioned it in a comment on your last post, but we decided to do "Family Basketball". Every Saturday I email a bunch of friends who have a bunch of boys my kids' ages and say, "We're meeting at the church at this time to practice for 1/2 an hour and then split into teams and play for an hour". It has been AWESOME. My kids are much more excited about playing sports than they ever have been before. They practice dribbling and shooting hoops at home. Their confidence is higher. It has been exactly what our family needed – all the boys are playing, it doesn't occupy weeknights, and we do it as a family. We are going to do it again in the spring with flag football. Other parents are loving it, too, because it is a good fit for their families and schedules, too.

    My kids are still doing a few other things: art class and science club that are after school.

    But, the epiphany for me was realizing that other parents put their children into activities to gain a lot of the benefits that a large family provides. It is not good for me or my family to run around trying to do everything that a 2 child family does. It just doesn't work. I need to leverage the assets I have, and those assets are a lot of kids! We are our own sports team, our own party, etc. It's been fun to realize that and come up with more things that we can do as a family.

    One other thought I have. I am noticing a lot of kids graduating from college and moving back in with mom and dad. They seem to have smarts, good grades, talents but can't get a job. I am noticing a lot of high school kids who just don't have time for a job. Looking forward to when my kids are that age, that concerns me. Learning to work (hard) is extremely important. My 10 year old started mowing lawns for money this fall (with his dad's help). I really want my kids to work for their own money. It will likely mean that they don't get to do as many activities when they are in high school, but I'm okay with that. If they can read, write, do math and work hard, I think they will be fine in figuring out whatever it is that makes them tick and going after it.

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  26. Jennie you expressed it so well. We made the same decision several years ago. I hated that every weekend was 4-5 games and sports practice and music lessons during the week. I wanted to have our weekends back. So we did just that. We decided to go hiking twice a month at least. Every weekend the kids complained the whole way to the mountains. And every weekend as we drove down and they decided between ice cream cones or slurpees, they were in great moods and enjoying one another's company. Of course as you mentioned, boys do need physical stuff, mine esp. So they were outside in their imagination every afternoon. Now that we only have 3 at home, they can join in and try most things they ask for, but they don't ask for much outside of school activities. It's made a difference for us.
    Kids need to grow up with their lives revolving around values, not schedules.

    Although had we been more abundant financially and had a nanny to help, I may not have made these same choices.

    What works for one of us doesn't always work for someone else, and what works at one time in our lives can change.

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  27. "You can actually take a ballet class or learn to play the guitar as a grown-up! Has the world forgotten that?"

    Yes! That's an idea that's bothered me for years: that sports and music and so many enjoyable things are usually only done by professionals or children–sometimes very reluctant children. And it bothers me for parents to require things of kids that they wouldn't do themselves. And again, for the kids that do love it, it bothers me for them to believe they should get to have all the fun and that moms exist only to serve them.

    And yet, that said, my kids DO have more time for those things than I do, and I AM willing to sacrifice–to a point–for them to have great experiences and develop talents. (Really my kids are in relatively few extra-curriculars at the moment–but still enough to add to my parenting burden.) I guess my current compromise is to trust that soon enough my turn will come; not that I'm letting my own interests die completely, but that I'm pursuing them at a much slower pace, and much less formally, than I hope to at some future time.

    As far as kids knowing how to work, we do one hour of chores every afternoon after school (or try to; sometimes I'm too tired to make sure it happens) and my 10-year-old has done thorough surveys and concluded that she has at least twice the chores of any other kid she knows. I keep telling her she's the lucky one because of the life skills she'll have. I think she's starting to believe me a little bit. It's hard to be the meanest mom on the block. (I have, however, been learning that I have to give my kids, particularly the 10-year-old, a lot of autonomy in how they spend that hour (as long as they are working) because otherwise it can be a one-hour fight.)

    Also, in a recent conversation with neighbors, one was telling how great summer swim team was. I said, "I love the idea of my kids getting lots and lots of swim practice, but I like to have an unstructured summer, and I've never been willing to have to get my kids somewhere every morning." She said, "Well, my sister's two daughters would just sleep in every morning all summer, so she puts them in swim team so they get up and get their day started." This is an explanation I've also heard from other neighbors, and it reallly shows me what completely different philosophy we have. But we also have different outcomes. While it wouldn't bother me at all if my kids sometimes slept in during the few short weeks of summer (and that's part of what I meant by an "unstructured summer") my kids hardly ever do. They pop right out of bed every morning and start making their own fun.

    Oh, and later in that same conversation I complained that after doing soccer for a season, my kids think they can *only* play if they're on an organized team, and won't just take a ball to a field and kick it around. And a friend suggested that this spring we can get all our kids together once or twice a week and take them to a local field to play soccer. I'm in! (But then again, it'll be even better if my kids pick up on the idea and do it themselves, so I can stay home and sew.)

    I'm not even going to apologize for how long this comment is, this time–I'll just let you take it as a compliment that you brought up a topic that brought out so many things I'd been thinking about. 🙂

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