By April Lollar
Just another manic Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday ….
Alarm. Snooze. Alarm. Snooze. Alarm. Panic. Shower. Wake up 8-year-old. Wait five minutes. Second attempt to wake up 8-year-old. Dry hair. Brush teeth. Make sure we have: lunchbox, water bottle, folder, are folder things signed? Are practice/dance clothes ready? Has 8-year-old brushed teeth? Make 8-year-old brush teeth. Are those shorts clean? Why are they so wrinkled? No time to worry about it. Feed dogs. Pick up dog poop.
Breakfast? Microwave veggie cup and throw granola bar at 8-year-old. Makeup? Do it in the car. GET IN THE CAR! Just make car line before the school door closes. Work. Work, work, work. Skip lunch because of afternoon schedule. Look at checklist. Nope, none of those things got done. Realize I am about to be late picking up 8-year-old. Leave work 20 minutes early to get him to dance, but still arrive at dance an hour late because I’m the only person who works in an office that closes at 5? Ponder where everyone else works. Consider sending resume to magical flexible schedule place. Drop off 8-year-old. Perfect time for: A) running errands or B) breaking out the laptop in the parking lot to finish at least one thing on that work checklist.
Pick up 8-year-old. It is 8 p.m. Chick- Fil-A drive through for dinner. Arrive home. Make 8-year-old bathe, brush teeth, check folder, make lunch for tomorrow. It’s 9:30?! Usher 8-year-old to bed. Curl up next to 8-year-old for “just a minute” for prayers. Fall asleep. Wake up in 8-year-old’s bed at 1:30 a.m. and stumble to own bed.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Add performance schedules, competitions, baseball season in the spring, school projects, family obligations, work obligations and travel, etc. If you have multiple children in multiple activities, I am not even sure how this works. You have sister wives? Any army of retired grandparents? You won the lottery? I can’t figure it out, but I salute you!
The days are full. So full, in fact, that there is little room left for things like rest, family dinners or self-care. And I don’t mean spa treatments and getaways when I say self-care. I mean eating at a table and not in the car, seeing your spouse for more than the seconds you brush past one another in the hall with a basket of laundry, reading a book or enjoying a hot cup of coffee.
BACK IN MY DAY
Once upon a time, there were seasons for sports and other activities. Not that juggling schedules has ever been easy, but having multiple kids participating in multiple activities used to be at least slightly more feasible. Eventually, though, people began figuring out they could make money on select leagues and competition teams, and we as parents decided providing the best for our kids meant extra lessons, longer seasons and more practice.
I believe in the wonderful things that youth sports and activities can do for kids, and I believe in the lessons they learn when they win and lose and try. I like to think that I don’t believe activities should trump family time, our faith or having a healthy budget, but my actions don’t always reflect that belief. We’ve made a conscious effort to ensure our actions reflect our beliefs this year, but it only began when our now 9-year-old decided not to dance this year. I was sad when he made that decision. I tried to talk him out of it, but when he looked at me and said he just wanted to be a kid for a while, it made me stop and take note. He was experiencing burnout at the tender age of 8, and I wasn’t okay with that.
LET THEM BE LITTLE
I still miss dance in many ways. But, now, we get home most nights between 5:30 and 6. There is time to check homework and make dinner. The days are still full. We are still busy, but we also have a little more time to breathe. He has more time to ride his skateboard, play with his dogs and swing in his hammock with a good book.
He is still active and played a short baseball season this fall. He is talking about picking up an activity this spring, too. One advantage of this slower pace is that he has time to explore a little more and decide what he really enjoys. I have a feeling he might be ready for dance again next year, and if he is, I will be his biggest fan. I also will fight for a schedule that allows time for rest and family dinners.
BALANCING ACTIVITIES AND HEALTHY HABITS
Research – We’ve always believed it’s important to finish what you start and to show a certain level of commitment in whatever you do. We still believe that, especially if you are part of a team, but I think we will take more time to have realistic conversations about time commitments and expectations before we jump into a new activity. We also will get details about the financial impact the activity will have on our household.
Guide them – In our desire to be supportive parents, we can fall into the trap of allowing our kids to dictate how we spend our time and our money. We have to be willing to say no if the time or financial commitments will put a strain on the family.
- The non-negotiables – Figure out what your non-negotiables are, and stick to them. Maybe that’s allowing each kid to pick one activity or choosing a rec league over a travel team. Maybe you want to go all-in with every activity. What works for another family won’t necessarily work for you, but figure out what makes the most sense for the people in your home and commit.
- Actions should reflect beliefs – If church or school are our priorities, choose activities that allow you to keep them priorities. Our kids will watch what we do more than they will listen to what we say.
- Listen to your kid – If your 8, 10 or 15-year-old tells you they are exhausted, if their grades are slipping or if they are struggling mentally, listen to them. We shouldn’t let kids quit the first time they meet adversity, but we should make their physical and mental health our priority. We may need to reconsider our definition of success. Starring in a play or making a touch down are wonderful accomplishments, but being healthy wins every single time.
A Coast resident since 2000, Lollar is a wife, mom, communications director for a local company and Gulf Coast Moms Blog contributor. Learn more about her at gulfcoast.citymomsblog.com/about-us/meet-writing-team.