Two other mothers and I were chatting recently about their children’s hectic schedules. One second-grade boy was in five extracurricular activities, including karate, basketball, baseball, piano, and an extra-advanced, super-duper math class (no, that wasn’t the official name, but that’s how I heard it in my head).
One mom then turned to me and said, “What does Nicole do?”
My gut reaction was to reply, “Well, Nicole is 6 so she really likes to swing and is learning to ride a two-wheeler.” But, I knew this was not the real question. The real question was this: What talents or sports or achievements does your daughter have to show for her six years of life?
I answered that she goes to a weekly tap class and usually plays soccer for an 8-week season each spring. The other mothers waited for more. So, I explained to them that I limit extracurricular activities to one per week.
One mother replied, “Oh, I would love to do that. I just can’t.”
I didn’t understand her statement, but I kept my mouth shut and sat back as they continued their litany of achievements and activities.
I think for many moms today, busy kids mean accomplished kids. For me, a busy kid means my child is spending more time with other people than with her own family. It means she would spend more time looking at the back of my head while I drive her between activities than she would spend looking into my eyes or holding my hand. Busy days also mean she doesn’t get to slow down and be a child in those few precious hours after school.
It’s not easy to scale back. It requires an active choice to protect free time. It means saying no to good, enriching activities that everyone else is doing. It means feeling a little like a failure when other moms talk about their kids’ laundry list of accomplishments.
But for my family, it is worth it. My first-grader may not have the outstanding resume of some of her peers, but here’s what she does have: the chance to imagine and create, hours to play and bond with her sister, and a mom who isn’t too busy to sit down to read a book together.
Cello lessons can wait. Super-duper math tutoring can, too. Right now, my daughter is busy being 6 — which, at this moment, means building a reading fort in the family room — and I can't imagine a better use of her time.
Do you set limits on activities for your kids?