It seems there has been a lot of talk in recent years about how families are overscheduled- constantly on the run and involved in too many activities. We've made this mistake.
Looks a little like this- Jon gets home from work, we give each other a quick peck- or not- sometimes I'm annoyed that he's late and didn't call, lol. So things are slightly contentious anyway, and since we're late- I'm barking at the kids to hurry and get their stuff and we all scramble out the door and head off in different directions. Jon takes a couple kids to one activity, and I take the other kids to another, and we both pick up nutritionally void fast food- a sorry excuse for dinner on the way home. We finally get home past the kids bedtimes and say a quick family prayer and rush to get everyone in bed- and get up to do it all again. So that might be an extreme example, but it has happened.
But now I refuse to live that way! I'm all about giving my kids opportunities to grow and develop, but it will not come at the expense of our family happiness. I understand the pressure parents feel to keep up- to continually keep kids busy with worthy pursuits. But it comes at a cost. The rushed madness can take away from the peace and stability of home and family life. So I guess that means I'm not a cool soccer mom. But that's ok with me. :) The way I see it, I have one shot to be a parent of young kids- to teach them truth, and instill values in them, and I'm not going to let social pressures or too many extracurricular activities take away those special moments.
I heard once that it's easy to say "NO" to unnessesary activities and other people's expectations, when you have a burning "YES" inside for something more important. And to me, that burning YES is for time together. Alvin Rosenfeld, the author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap: said ''Parents rush so much to pay attention to activities that they neglect the relationships. And all the data shows the relationships (with parents and friends) make the difference.'' I like how President Hinckley’s put it in his book “Standing for Something.” even more. He said, Our lives have become intensely fast paced filled with business and a frantic flitting about that was uncharacteristic of earlier ages. We pack our lives with so many activities and pursuits that many of us have lost sight of something that is of critical importance to families… time together.
I'm also a huge advocate of letting kids be kids! Allowing them space and freedom to enjoy their childhood- letting them run, play, explore, and imagine. When they're overscheduled, there's little free time for kids to be kids.
I think it's especially important in the formative years to provide that structure kids need. Family dinner, reading together, bedtime routines, and Sunday worship are important family rituals that provide a wonderful sense of security. As our kids get older, we may be a little more flexible- and keep them busier... so they'll stay out of trouble. But for now, we're really kind of possessive of our time together. :)
In an effort to prevent an overscheduled family life, our current policy is to allow each child 1 activity of their choice a year (besides church activities)- starting in kindergarten. So this year it's t-ball for Benji, piano for Celeste, and ballet for Charity. We do our best to have dinner together first, and then go together to practices and games as a family to show our support for one another. As they get older, they might not want all of us on the sidelines cheering them on, lol, but for now it really seems to mean a lot to them.
So here are a few random pics from Benji's t-ball practice-
Of course, the kids are thrilled to go along to show their support. Or maybe it's cause we stop for ice cream on the way home. Yeah, so getting ice cream after each game might not be the healthiest habit- but at least we're together!