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I'll never have to worry about my kids being over-scheduled. Just getting them out of the house to school on time is a feat of massive proportions.
The choice to limit my kids' participation in after-school activities is a conscious one, made from a myriad of thoughtful reasons, not just because it's physically impossible for my husband and me to be in four places at once. My husband's job as a pilot means I'm usually on my own, making even a ballet class and soccer game on the same day nearly impossible.
Growing up, I would definitely characterize my existence as over-scheduled, every night a different activity, from ballet and violin lessons to drama and karate, plus rehearsals and performances and everything in between. Our car was my second home.
To be fair, I loved every single second of it, and my participation in extracurriculars certainly afforded me amazing opportunities, some of which influenced my former profession as a college music professor. Others, like ballet and theater, are still much-loved hobbies.
But now as the parent, I think about all the money that my parents spent on pointe shoes and violin strings, not to mention the lessons and classes.
Then I multiply that by four children and realize we'd have to start skipping meals to pay for the soccer cleats and ballet tights.
And finances aside, I'm imagining my mother and brother in the car for all of those hours a day, both of them making huge sacrifices with their own precious time.
Then I have to wonder if it was really worth it.
I've always believed that our kids' passions will emerge on their own, perhaps sooner for children who receive parental cultivation, but for all people in their own time. And as much as many parents want to push their kids in a specific direction at seemingly younger ages these days, I think that their energy could be better spent helping their kids discover their own interests.
Too often I see kids whose interest for something is turned sour due to parental pressure. And suddenly it becomes more about the parents—for them to maintain some sort of social status or to correct their own failures through their kids.
Just because a kid loves tennis or ballet doesn't automatically determine a career as a ballerina. And really, how many kids who play soccer in these ridiculously competitive leagues actually end up playing it professionally?
Around our house, we limit activities to one per child for now, not only because that's all we can afford, but also because that's all we're able to physically accomplish.
This hasn't been easy, especially with kids who are multitalented and feel as comfortable on a soccer field as they do on a piano bench. But sometimes hard choices have to be made. And when they do make those choices, we know that it's something that they're truly committed to and not just another thing that mom or dad wants them to do.
More important, though, we also keep activities to a minimum, because we believe that parents should be able to have their own interests and activities as well.
And I refuse to spend all of my waking hours behind the wheel of a car, shuttling children all over town.
While none of the hobbies my husband and I enjoy ever really interfere with what our kids are doing, they do allow us to let off a little steam and have a life, which I know makes us better parents in the long run.
Spending all of my time in the car, waiting on hand and foot for my kids, isn't exactly the message I want to send my children. That's not what it means to be a parent. I want them to understand that the world doesn't revolve around them.
For my family of six, that choice is made easier just by the sheer number of mouths that need food and bodies that want hugs. But no matter how many children you have, it's a point that is hopefully a topic of thoughtful discussion for every family. I think it's the difference between raising smart, self-sufficient kids or entitled, indulged ones. And it's the difference between enjoying your existence as a parent or being done in by it.