I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend! Many prayers and thanks to all those who have served our great country. Like a good Jersey girl, I spent the weekend at the shore. It was chilly, but very nice, and I had a bit of time to read. I am reading “The 4-hour Workweek,” by Timothy Ferriss. While I don’t share the same values as the author, I do think he gives some darn good advice on very practical changes busy people can make to capture more free time and use that time for the things we love .
And so, inspired in part by the book, but also by the end of the school year, and MaryAlice’s post last week, our family recently made some difficult decisions regarding what we will do with our “free time” or activities.
Now is a great time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t during the past year. As children age, their interests change, they want to try new things, and they may want to quit others. May and June are good times to start planning for the summer, but also times to start thinking about what the next school year will bring.
In our case, with a larger family, kids playing multiple sports, and participating in the arts, weeks can become so busy that parents are subject to burnout and the family suddenly has very little family time. In an ideal world, I’d love to just declare 3 nights per week family nights, and clear them of all activities, but I don’t have much control over when my kids practice, and with five children all having different interests, we are going to have seasons where we call in grandparents not just for a night off, but to have three different kids make it to their games!
As part of our yearly “review,” Mr. Red and I sat down with our oldest three children and asked them to rank, on a scale of 1-10, their various activities (10 being the most fun).
For my oldest son, baseball and soccer rank at the top of his list. Swimming at the bottom. Piano somewhere in the middle. For my oldest daughter, soccer, music, and performing in a show rank at the top, swimming again at the bottom. I think both children ranked swimming as a zero. Ouch!
Swimming would have been a logistically “easier” sport for our family. Swim practices are timed conveniently with our summer schedule. Swim meets are in one location and a family affair. Baseball and soccer games require driving in different directions with different children and take up both Saturdays and Sundays.
But those are sports with balls. My children like to play with balls. Sports are supposed to be fun, and my children don’t think swim practices are fun. I can see how indoor practices and cold spring mornings are not fun times to be in the pool. For my kids, swimming only climbed from a zero ranking to a four when we gave them ideal warm weather conditions and an actual swim meet. What an eye opener for me.
And so, when the summer theatre schedule came out last week and I realized there were many swimming conflicts for my oldest daughter, we decided to let her quit. We had to pay the money a month ago, and perhaps I won’t see that $50 again, but I consider the loss of $50 perfectly justified if it makes life a little less crazy this summer. And while my oldest son is swimming this summer, it may be his last.
I am a firm believer in children participating in various extracurricular activities. All kids should have exposure to sports, and music, and art. In an ideal world, children would have time for all these things, and multiple sports, and they would pick a few things to specialize in when they hit middle or high school age. But with a large family, and an ever increasing emphasis on early specialization and super competitive child sports teams, I have to adjust my parenting preferences a bit or we won’t survive.
And so my dream of having 5 children on one swim team, with the entire family attending swim meets on summer Saturdays, has come to an end. We can’t sustain travel soccer, travel baseball, softball, summer shows, choir, piano, dance, and swimming with 5 children. In fact, we just learned that we can’t even do it with three!
I am an extroverted sports-loving mom. But I can’t spent every season running from one activity to the next, losing our family weekends and my sanity. There needs to be an ebb and flow. So far we have kept away from winter sports, but now that fall and spring have become an intense time, perhaps we need to cut back in the summer too. We are taking one big step in that direction this summer. And, as my children gain more preferences, I’m confident they can help decide the next quitting time.