Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Over Scheduled Kids, Stressed Out Parents. Who is Winning?

"So, today Joshie has soccer and piano, Amelia has dance and chorus, and Winston has Karate and T-Ball". Then she sighs. BIG.

This familiar rant is heard all around the car lines, the bus stops, and the play dates. The tone of voice and the exasperated looks are always the same as the day's schedule is announced.

Parents today spend so much time shuffling their kids from place to place they lose sight of their own needs and in the process, lose themselves, their sanity and their family structure. They complain, they whine, and they are just plain tired. (I will say this. There is a special heaven for Hockey Moms.)

It starts off innocently enough. After you have your first baby and get into somewhat of a groove, you start to venture out to "activities" for your little cherub. First, it's story hour at the library, then it's "Gymboree", and before he's one, you fear he's lagging behind so you enroll him in Mandarin Chinese language lessons. Then there are swim lessons, soccer, T-ball and karate, all before he's learned how to wipe. And for the girls, there is ballet, pageants (another blog), and Princess lessons.

We're so concerned that our child(ren) will not be able to "keep up" with the other children, we fall into the trap, thinking this insane rat race is normal.

Here's a little secret. It's not.

From my own Mom experience, I have learned that kids need to play; freely, by themselves, and with others. They love to explore, imagine, and create, all within their own space. How do I know this? Because I have 2 boys who fight over toilet paper holders and tape because they are too busy creating antennas, binoculars, robots, and microphones. They really don't need a lot to make them happy. Yesterday, they fought over a string and I had to set the timer to give each equal time playing with the string. I am not lying, people.

Parents complain about not having enough time but they do have a choice. In our house we have a 1 activity rule. Only one sport/activity allowed at a time. After it's over, you can move on to something different. Often times the parents are competing with each other to see who can do more. And in the end, does little Suzy end up in the New York Ballet? Does little Joshie get a full hockey scholarship? Chances are, no.

If you are a parent who is stressed from over scheduling, just ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does my child enjoy this activity? Ask the kid, s/he might surprise you.
2. Does taking my child to this activity place too many demands on the parent and family structure?
3. Is it too expensive? Are you sacrificing in other ways just to keep this activity going?
4. Are there alternatives to this activity?
5. How else would/could you spend your time if you weren't "sacrificing" for the child? (When do mommy & daddy get some play time is what I mean!!)
6. Is the child's school work suffering?
7. Is the child getting enough sleep and time to "be a kid"?
8. Do you think you missed out on something as a kid and are now trying to overcompensate?

Just some things to think about when finding the right balance in your family life. Personally, I was involved in softball, bowling, volleyball, Pep Squad, archery and school government. (I was the most uncoordinated participant out there, but I had fun). Most of my activities were "Intramural", free, and right after school. They did not seem to create any undue stress on my parents but at the same time, enriched my life, introduced me to new friends, and kept me out of trouble.

I hope this blog does not sound "preachy". My hope is that parents might take a step back and consider all factors. Childhood is already too short coupled with the fact that the life of a grownup is a constant treadmill. It sounds like a recipe for slowing down, doesn't it?

Just because everyone else is stressed and over scheduled doesn't mean you have to be too!

Would love to hear your feedback here on this blog. Please feel free to post your opinions here.


SouthernLady said...

Wonderful Post! Right now my twins are 4, and I really don't feel they are ready for team sports. I also don't care if other parents have their kids in sports. The boys don't even care about that stuff. They just want to play and have fun, and that's what matters to me.

mindy said...

you know i agree. we are a consciously underscheduled family and i wouldn't have it any other way. all the running and the distracting and the media take away from the breathing and the knowing of each other and ourselves. for me and my family this style works. low stress and low key; play play play and work it out with each other over the strings of things! i appreciate families who have different styles that work for them. i am nobody to judge someone else's lifestyle. sad when families are being driven to distraction by unrealistic expectations coming from outside of themselves, and they are not happy because it is NOT working for THEM. too much stress on kids! for me life moves fast enough. what's the rush? and what is really important? we all get to the finish line eventually! this topic is close to my heart. thanks for the post, becky! love you. said...

Great post! The truth is, sometimes I over-schedule my girls because it is easier to be running around then to be in the house all day. Only recently have I really discovered the magic of quiet time at home. It has been fun watching my girls turn our couches into "tents" and blocks into their own "rooms". Definitely something to remember as they get older and closer to kindergarten.