Overjoyed With Under-Scheduling

As parents, one thing Chris and I have purposefully shied away from is over-scheduling our kids.  Remember last summer (or was it two ago now?) when I over scheduled Bean as soon as he turned three?  Three is the magical number when it comes to extra-curriculars, and as soon as he was able to participate in anything, I signed him up.

He was in soccer, swimming lessons, Vacation Bible School, and a summer imagination movement camp at Chris’s theater.  By the third week of his new schedule, Bean was OVER IT and I was right there with him.

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I learned from that experience.  Just because kids reach a certain age does not mean that I should automatically push them into the deep end of a social life.  Not that this is the case for everyone.  I know lots of kids that are involved in multiple activities and commitments and they love every minute of it.  But for Bean, it was a little much.

Since then, I have really not signed either of my kids up for much.  Bean was in choir at our church still, but that was on Sunday mornings during Sunday School, so there was no other obligation there.  Both are in swimming lessons, but that just started a couple weeks ago.

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Sometimes I hear other parents talking about tee ball practice and little league football and ballet lessons and soccer games, and I momentarily panic, thinking that I am robbing my children of all these memories.  I get this frantic feeling in the pit of my stomach and my mind starts to race with thoughts like, “Why aren’t MY kids doing that?  Where can I sign them up?  When did the season start?  How did I not know EVERYONE was doing this except us?”

But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that my kids are three and four years old.  If they haven’t started organized sports yet, I’m pretty sure there is still time before they go off to college.

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This summer, Bean is old enough to participate in a few different drop-off camp programs around our neighborhood.  Chris and I are eager for him to do some of those because we are hoping he’ll meet some kids he will be in school with in the fall.  He’s doing VBS at our church, plus an imagination camp at our church.  He’s also doing a Llama Llama themed “preparing for kindergarten” camp a little closer to the fall.  All of the camps are one week only and meet from 9:00 until noon, and I figure three weeks out of nine in the summer is a pretty good ratio for involvement and hanging with me.

(By the way, these are their pirate faces… they aren’t mad…)

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In the fall, we are going to let Bean play tee ball.  He started asking this past spring and still mentions it whenever we drive past the softball fields near our house.  I think he’s ready to be part of a team.  And I’ve thought about signing Gracie up for ballet lessons then, too.  Though, my gut tells me it’s too soon for her, but we’ll see how my gut feels when fall rolls around.

This part of parenthood sort of surprises me about myself, actually.  I figured I would be a pusher parent.  One of those who wanted and insisted their kids were involved in everything they could get their hands on.  Mostly, I assumed I would be that kind of parent because that’s the kind of person that I am.  I like to be involved, and if you tell me there’s something to join, I’m probably going to try to join it.  And then be active.  And then lead it.  Chris says it’s a disease I have.  I say I’m just very involved.

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When it comes to parenting, though, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that what I covet for my children is a strong family life first.  And it’s not that valuing family is a surprise to me.  It’s that I’m choosing to exercise that value through being very choosy about what and when my kids are involved in things.

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I know they will grow up, and as they do, I hope their schedules fill up, too.  I want my kids to be active and involved as they grow.  I want them to learn how to manage their time and work hard for something and to be part of a team.  I want them to take pride in accomplishments that are separate and distinct from Chris and me.  I want to sit on sidelines and wear tee shirts that say, “MICHAEL’S MOM” or “GRACIE’S GROUPIES.”  I want Friday nights at Cub Scouts and Saturday mornings at swim meets or ballfields.  Or both.  Chris and I are so excited about all of those things to come.

But in our house, and for our family, those things can wait just a little bit until my kids are ready.  Sometimes that means I worry that I a missing opportunities for them.  But more often than not, I think my three and four-year-old are happier just swimming in our pool (or sitting in their water table?) than wearing a team jersey.  And that is completely fine with me.

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10 Thoughts to “Overjoyed With Under-Scheduling”

  1. As a mom who also has two kids in daycare, I tend to think the same. Home time is down time after having so much stimulation and activity Monday-Friday. Sometimes I feel bad that we don’t schedule more play dates, but then I realize that daycare is a week long play date, every week of the year. Good for you for thinking of what’s right for your kids right now!

  2. Sarah

    As a child of parents who only put her into the programs she asked to be in, I like the sound of the balance you’re looking for. By the time I knew to ask to take piano or ballet or softball I was already so far behind everyone else that they were no fun.

  3. Nova

    As a dance mom of a 17 year old bunhead I would say that you can’t start ballet too early 🙂

  4. Leah

    First time commenter, but I read your blog every day! I had tears in my eyes reading this. I have a 4 yr old, 2 yr old and 11 month old and have bee facing these same issues. Everyone in my circle does camp after camp all summer. I feel strongly convicted to keep my kids home this Summer. I think once you start, it’s really the beginning of the end. I know life will continue to get busier, so relishing this time at home with them.

  5. I totally agree with this and feel the same way! “A strong family life first” is my ultimate goal as well. I’m not ready to have us all pulled in 5 different directions every night of the week with our weekends totally full and busy. Down time at home with the family is so important to me. My oldest son is 5 and we’ve done a sport in the fall and a sport in the spring for 2 years with him and that is PLENTY. All we have this summer is swimming lessons and possibly VBS. I know one day we will be crazy busy with extracurriculars having 3 boys, but even then we plan to keep a check on things and our priorities in order… family first. =)

  6. Kelly H.

    I waited until my kids were six until we really started anything. Now they are almost 10 – OMG. All things are of their choosing. I am glad we waited, though, because I think the 5/6 age range is perfect for beginning an activity. They are able to let you know what they are interested in and able to participate more as a team player. We are in the middle of flag football, baseball, lacrosse and softball right now plus cello and bass. It is crazy but I know these days will be fleeting, so I am soaking it all in. We make the most of our down time and rarely go anywhere, choosing to hang at home and enjoy family time.

  7. Michelle

    I often think it’s interesting how this generation of parents are so involved with getting their kids into as many extracurriculars as possible, like they’re going to miss out on something. I’m 34 and don’t remember this being such a big thing when I was growing up- not like now. My parents always encouraged us to join if we wanted to- and we did for a while. I did Girl Scouts and basketball and my brother did tee ball and karate- but we were both happier with unscheduled downtime where we could unwind after school, play with friends and let our imaginations run free.
    I will say I’m very grateful my parents didn’t push us and let us choose whether we wanted to join and if so, what we wanted to do as our extracurricular. It made a big difference in whether we enjoyed the activity or not when we felt it was of our own choosing.
    Sounds like you’re on your way to a great balance, Katie- good for you!

  8. Tabs

    Oh my gosh, I love this!! For so many reasons! I feel like this day and age (or, probably for all time, I don’t know) people are always pushing for us or our kids to get involved with all the things all the time. My parents were like you, not pushy. I did a few things and I am very happy with those few things and do not feel like I missed out on life. I am hoping I will be the same way. But like you I am excited to someday to sit on the side lines or in the audience and watch/support my kids participate in what they love and enjoy. 🙂

  9. Ana

    I agree with this. Mine are 2 & 4, and are in daycare 5 days a week year round. I love our relaxed evenings and weekends as a family and know the rushing around from here to there will come soon enough. On the weekends we do swim lessons at the Y a couple of blocks from our house—because I think swimming is a good skill to have in terms of safety AND fun. Its 30 minutes, and with the 2 year old, one of us goes in with him, and its so cute! Once they learn to swim confidently, they don’t have to do it anymore. We tried soccer this spring, and even that seemed to hectic to me, and the boys would rather play at the playground than follow directions and take turns at soccer, so we’re not signing up again nor are we choosing anything else. There are many years for sports and lessons for them, but not too many more homework-free, schedule-free years for our family.

  10. Christy

    I agree totally! I have always wanted to let my kids pick what they wanted to do and not force them into a hundred things that they don’t enjoy. My oldest (6) has taken dance for about three years. Her daycare had a dance studio attached that is also run by her daycare teacher. So she wanted to take dance. Now my youngest (3) is in her first year and loves it. But we limit it to recreational dance–no compettitions for us at 6 and 3! We also did 5/6 year old tee ball this year and that has been a major success. But again, my daughter asked if she could play. We told her that it would conflict with dance some and she would have to decide whether to miss a game or quit dance (it is too expensive to miss!). She decided that dance was her most important activity and she could go to most of the games and be fine with that. So we have had a very positive experience with it. I applaud you sticking to your guns! It is hard when you are surrounded by parents who have kids in nine different activities at the age of 4!

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