Friday, March 25, 2011

Overbooked, Overscheduled, Oh!

Dash's karate kick!
Months ago, back at the beginning of the school year, I made a personal decision. Now that I had two kids in public school, which comes complete with the shorter days that make a working parent's nerves twang, I had to make a concession. Either my kids would come home from school and watch TV until 6:30 when I arrived, then quickly shovel dinner in and finish homework before they dropped; OR, I would shorten my hours so that I could be home when they got home. I shortened my hours.

When I first envisioned the extra two whole hours balancing away in my work-life scenario, they seemed like golden, glittering minutes, full of promise. I could choose after-school activities for the kids. I could go to the gym. I could get all those to-do lists of home-chores done. We could gambol in the yard, go for hikes, schedule playdates! So, you smart people, you already know the reality, don't you?

What really happened at first is that when I got home earlier, the chores started immediately, dinner happened much sooner, and then TV and homework and collapsing. No gamboling, no walks, no hazy crisp fall afterschool playdates. Perhaps what was wrong here was a lack of structure, I thought. I started to schedule activities.

Rosie and Dash were already taking tap and ballet classes on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. Last summer, we added Saturday karate for Dash, while Rosie did Japanese calligraphy. They were also taking afterschool soccer on half-day Mondays, but that ended at 2pm and Grandma S picked them up (thanks, mom!!). Of course, I have my modern dance class too, on Thursdays. This winter, we added art classes for both Rosie and me on Saturdays and Mondays; soccer had ended, Rosie dropped calligraphy and I took a break from dance just for home-life balance with the art class. For Dash, we added a language class on Wednesdays, Spanish, and for Rosie we added Junior Jazzercise on Thursdays, which just ended. The Winter-term art classes just ended, as well. Have you lost track yet?

Here's how things look at the moment:
  • Monday: nothing
  • Tuesday: nothing
  • Wednesday: Spanish, tap 
  • Thursday: modern dance
  • Friday: nothing
  • Saturday: karate, tap
  • Sunday: nothing
Only three days booked? My brain fired: must schedule MORE!!! What did I do? I signed the kids up for Gunston Soccer Club, a local competitive league. I sure had my rose-colored glasses on, because I thought that since some close friends who have kids (the same ages and genders as mine) were also registered, that all I had to do was request that we have the same teams for our kids and it would happen! I imagined carpooling and sideline flask-sipping with adult friends while our kids frolicked happily around the soccer fields.

Reality hit when I got their coach assignments and details about the league.  A gut-punch to the stomach: neither child was on our friends' team rosters. Carpooling? Out the window. I only recognized one parent's email address from either list. But the freak-out really happened when I saw the scheduling... Thursday practices for Rosie starting at 5:30 (with an optional Tuesday clinic), and game day Saturdays; Friday practices for Dash (at a different location) at 5:30, game day Saturdays—each child would have two games back-to-back, with times scheduled by luck of the draw. With two kids, you could potentially be at the soccer field for most of Saturday, worst case scenario.

What was I thinking? Dash already had two Saturday activities! And while Rosie likes soccer well enough, she wanted to continue with art or Jr. Jazzercise, which are scheduled on Saturday and Thursday, overlapping. This is a very popular soccer club! How do all the other parents do it?

In tears, I emailed Dash's coach and told him that I wished to withdraw Dash, sight unseen. He was very nice about it, even trying to offer scenarios for me to keep Dash in the club. I stuck to my message and said no, again and again. He finally got it and took Dash off the roster. Instead, I put Dash back into the Monday afterschool soccer, where there were no conflicts. Rosie will stay with Gunston for now—I'm curious to see how the club works and whether it's manageable for future seasons.

A quick recap of schedule to be (four days scheduled):

Monday: Dash, soccer
Tuesday: nothing
Wednesday: Dash, Spanish; Rosie, tap
Thursday: Rosie, soccer club practice; me, dance
Friday: nothing
Saturday: Rosie, soccer club games (starting 4/9); Dash, karate & ballet
Sunday: nothing

I've still got ideas bouncing around in my head. I want Dash to try the track team and Rosie to get back in art. I'm not sure this soccer thing is going to work, but if she likes it, that's what counts (I know Dash loves it). I'm here to give my kids opportunities to try different things and see what they're good at, learn to use their bodies and minds, practice and develop. I'm helping them become well-rounded little people.

But, y'know, I still need to be able to schedule a haircut for myself now and then. 


  1. Instead of looking at those days as "nothing," try looking at them as "whatever I happen to feel like at the time."

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