Dr. Mom: Balancing scheduled activities vs. play time

08/02/2012 12:00 AM

08/07/2012 8:39 AM

So the other day I sat down with my calendar and a list of my children's upcoming after- school activities, trying to reconcile multiple schedule conflicts.

I was there, hunched over my iPhone with a furrowed brow, for a good hour.

Good grief.

All I could think was, "What has our life come to?"

Soccer, dance, piano and swimming.

Really?

Why, how, and when were the scrambled thoughts swirling around in my head. Never mind the fact that my husband and I must work and the kids must go to school and complete their homework.

And what about free time and family dinners?

Rushing from school pickup to one activity after another barely leaves time for a sit-down, home-cooked meal. I'm no Martha Stewart, but spaghetti and meat sauce enjoyed together at our dinner table is something I value.

We all need some down time. Time for the kids to just be and time for us to just be together.

I'm worried about all I have scheduled for our family. In just a few short weeks, our summer is over.

That's it. Another summer gone too fast as we dive head-first into another busy school year.

My inner conflict is nothing new, and I know as the school year descends upon us that many parents feel the same way. We all recall moments of our own childhood spent roaming our neighborhoods, being called in at dinner time.

The good old days. Or are they?

Sure, I have fond memories of being free to roam. We played hide-and-seek until the sun went down with whoever was outside at the time. But the reality is that my parents didn't have the time or financial resources for organized sports, dance or piano classes.

They had to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

We did what kids do best: We played our little hearts out, and it was good.

However, the truth of the matter is, I want to give our children opportunities not afforded to us and to open up their world to other possibilities. Not to mention the fact that there are just not any kids playing hide-and-seek in their front yards anymore. They're all at soccer, dance or tae kwon do.

So I'm torn.

I'm trying to find the balance between being a good kind of busy while still having some time to smell the flowers, so to speak, or at the very least make really good mud pies and build an impromptu fort of pillows.

I don't want to steal away my kids' childhood with one organized activity after another.

So at the end of that time-crunching, over scheduling hour, I decided this: There has to be at least one day during the week when no one has an after-school activity; they should generally enjoy what they're doing; and I give myself and my kids permission to re- assess and change direction when things seem too hectic.

After all, they get one childhood, and the hubs and I are determined to make sure it's a childhood well played.

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