Monday, January 4, 2010

Overbooking weeknights...

Since my boys are only 4 & 5 you would think we wouldn’t already be busy with extra-curricular activities. Well, that hasn’t always been the case. Just this past fall, both boys were on different soccer teams and my 5 yr old participated in Upward football – which overlapped soccer a few weeks. At one point I was shuttling a kid to a practice and/or game daily. While these programs had their rewards, I had to step back and ask myself “Why are we doing this?”. We were sacrificing family time at home and many times our dinners were late and not always very nutritious.

When registration for basketball came up, my 5 yr old assumed he would play. He loves to play basketball and I really enjoy watching him play, but we decided not to participate and take this spring semester off completely from sports – no basketball, no soccer. It seems silly to even be writing this, he’s only 5 for pete’s sake. But like so many we get caught up in not wanting him to ‘miss out’ on anything. Silly

Can I tell you how nice it has been already? Not only are our afternoons calmer, but I can tell a difference in the boys’ behavior. Shocking, isn’t it?

Lest you think I have it all under control, the crazy over-booker inside of me almost signed both boys up for swim. I thought “we have all this free time (right) so we could do swim”. I really am insane at times. I fought the urge and we are still sports-free this semester.

Let me make it clear that I don’t think these activities are bad. In fact, in addition to the exercise and learning of the actual sport, they have learned valuable social skills. They are just not the best thing for my family at this time. There will be many years to enjoy these activities – in moderation.

We’ll see what the fall semester holds. Stay tuned.

How do you feel about sports and other extra-curricular activities? I would love to hear how you balance being involved without getting over-booked.


  1. We did the same thing last year when we moved to Missouri. We had been involved in swim, girl scouts, gymnastics, piano and soccer. I was exhausted ALL of the time and we were on the go constantly. We took a year off and it was wonderful. We've just begun to add activities back in to our schedule but very slowly. I think that not only had I become overwhelmed but the girls had also.

  2. I am a child of a Parks and Rec director, so as such, we were involved in EVERYTHING. When I had children of my own, my Dad sat me down and said," If I could have done anything differently, it would have been to spend less time taking you to and watching your games, and more time just being with you...just remember that with your kids."

    I truly believe there are valuable lessons you learn about life through extracurricular activities,but there has to be balance. We took an entire year off this year, and it has been wonderful. Next year, the kids get to pick one sport or activity that they want to get involved in. It keeps us sane!

  3. Our boys have never had too many extra curricular things going on at one time. Don't know how we managed to swing that one though.

    My youngest does have a fair few things this year, but all are at school either lunchtime or after school and he walks to and from school so that creates no problems for me. THANKFULLY.

  4. Well, you just reminded me that I need to sign my girls up for ballet. My problem right now is that I need to be more intentional with activities for them, both inside and outside the home. Ideally,I'd like to participate in more organized activities during the summer, when school is out.

  5. I have to agree with you. When parents start their children off with these types of activities so young, I have to wonder who they are doing it for. I think this just takes away from family time.
    Mama Bear

  6. Our girls played softball last year and loved it for the most part, but I have to be honest and say I haven't given them the chance to find out what else they love. Softball season was crazy enough that I, like you, decided I would just follow their lead and let them play sports as they ask. I don't want to deny them anything, but the priority really has to be on family/church while they're so little and easily influenced.

  7. Okay, here's a comment from a mom who has been through it all - first I wanted my children to learn an instrument because it is very helpful with math and critical thinking besides being fun. Even people without rhythm can learn it rhythm a bit. I also wanted mine to have a physical activity. Because it's good to get out in the fresh air. If I could have chosen for them, horses would have been it (since it was mine) but because that is notoriously expensive, we went for something different. First, my girls started dance - that was fine because it started in day care. When they got out of school and didn't want to do it anymore (my youngest said that she wished I had "made them" stay in it, but that's not my style - besides I didn't want a Miss Grump on my hands). When my oldest wanted to try softball, my youngest got in it, too. Sure practices overlapped some, but most of the time they did not and the girls practiced with each other and with their dad. Mom, not so much as I have little skill even though I try real hard. When it was time to move from slow to fast pitch I let the girls decide. My oldest decided to quit and my youngest moved on to tennis - but that was with the high school team. Her softball years helped her in the hand/eye coordination part and she was a fast learner, too. Anyway, as to music - I started both out on the piano since that is what I played and it is easier to learn notes on the keyboard. I started them at 5 - unless they are a real prodigy I wouldn't start any younger and actually, if we hadn't had one in our house, I probably wouldn't have started them that early. I think around 7 or 8 is early enough - why? Because of the practice. Even though I tried to make practice fun and reward them for doing it, until they understand about "homework" it can be brutal - even if it's for five minutes - and even if the teacher is not Mom! My oldest took right to it and she was a great student. She moved on quickly to other teachers. My youngest, because piano requires you to learn both hands, hated it and we butted heads, but that was okay. When she got older - in late grade school and middle school - she picked up the clarinet - and what she learned from her piano days helped for this instrument, too. All this to say - music/dance and sports are all good. Only choose one to two activities per child. If you can work it into school, all the better (mine did things at school, too because as they got older it helped on college applications as well as being something they enjoyed), talk about what they enjoy and don't enjoy when you're driving them to and from the as much a part as you can (this doesn't mean you have to coach, but if you know what they are doing - when they "teach" you about what they are involved in it makes for some fun moments, and when you tell them what you did - it's some neat ah-ha moments when they realize you had a life before them. So, be sure and tell them about things you did as a kid!) And when they say they want to quit - let them. I usually made mine complete a season or a semester (except marching band, but that was summer camp that she had been asked to do and allowed to quit if it didn't suit her - which it didn't) because I wanted them to learn to honor their commitments. There are good lessons to learn in all of this, but most of all enjoying each other. I still would have done things a bit differently, but that's part of life, too!

  8. Theresa, I always value your perspective. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I think a lot of this stems from the fact that I was a busy kid. I played piano, was in band, played basketball and was involved in every club my little school had to offer.
    While I learned SO much and have such wonderful memories, it taught me such a fast-paced life I felt like I had to be doing something all the time or I was being lazy.
    I am just now starting to move past that crazy point of view. I do know we will have the boys in activities. I just want to evaluate our reasons and not overbook their lives. It can happen so quickly.

  9. Marianna,
    I think it is very thoughtful for you to consider that less is more more when you are scheduling your boys. We value our family time and limit outside commitments, because we want our boys to value being together and doing things as a family. Some people that do alot of sports don't even get to take a family vacation. Our boys have missed some experiences because we don't push sports, but I think what they have gained is so much more. My children will remember how we always made them go on family trips, visit grandparents, go to church, family movie nights, and just being together. That is more valuable to us, but I have always felt like I am in the minority with the way we prioritize our lives. Keep us informed on how this works for your family.