Why I Limit My Children’s Schedules

Be like Nancy.

I met up with a friend of mine the other day and she was so exhausted. She looked completely wiped out and said she was just run down. I couldn’t help but notice that she had bags under her eyes and looked really exhausted. I was and still am really concerned about her health.

She began to tell me about how busy her life has become. Running one of her kids to several after-school activities, and two other children to different activities, helping with their homework, plus oh yeah, she has a part-time job on top of it and a husband who travels for work. I caught myself thinking, “Just say no!”

Remember those commercials for the war on drugs? Just say no, they told us over and over. And I have to admit, that stuck with me, but not the way Mrs. Reagan wanted it to. I say no to all kinds of things. I find myself limiting the after-school activities for my kids for multiple reasons, and my own sanity is one of them.

My son, of course, doesn’t have many after school activities except for therapy and I can’t really say no to that. He has to go to speech, occupational, and physical therapies. But he also plays Miracle League baseball on Saturdays, so the things that I schedule for our daughter are not on Saturdays.

Our daughter is allowed to have two activities of her own, outside of school. She chose dance and gymnastics. She’s been asking to dabble in volleyball and we’ve explained that for money and scheduling reasons she has to pick one of her other activities to give up to take on volleyball.

We just don’t have the time, inclination to run children all over God’s green earth, or the patience to do more than that.

Does that make us bad parents? No, it makes us rested parents. We are better parents than the tired saps we would be if we were doing all kinds of crazy activities with our kids. This is not to say that we don’t encourage them to do extracurricular activities. We do, but they can only have two each.

We enjoy our downtime at our home with our kids. We eat dinner together every night and discuss our day, no TV, no phones at the table. Just the four of us, eating a healthy, home-cooked meal together.

I know what I’m capable of. I know where my limits are. I absolutely have to make my health a priority so I work out at home. Our entire family works out together after dinner most nights. The one night a week where I’m driving my daughter to and from practice, I don’t get a workout in. I use that hour and a half that she’s in dance class to go grocery shopping.

We have the money to do all of the activities she wants but, I don’t want to give her everything her little heart desires. I want her to work for some of it. She needs to know that while her father and I love her very much and want what’s best for her, it’s not our job to give her everything. It’s okay for Mom and Dad to say no. She needs to make the tough decision about what she wants to continue to do and which activity she is willing to let go of to make room for another.

If she was adamant that she would be doing dance or gymnastics for a future career, I might be inclined to do competitive dance and gymnastics, but it’s not her dream. Her dream is to be a writer. And we foster that.

The most important thing to us as a family is for her to do as well as she can in school and be kind to everyone. Part of that is getting enough rest. Go go go is not something we do well in our family.

I didn’t have any after school activities until I reached middle school when I was a kid, and I turned out pretty darn good. I’m fairly certain that my child won’t be left behind because she didn’t get to do horseback riding lessons, dance, gymnastics, volleyball, piano, and Girl Scouts all in one week.

On the flip side of this, my sister-in-law’s family would not be healthy if they didn’t have practices and tournaments to go to. They seem to thrive on that. It’s where they make friends and they carpool with a lot of them. Our family just doesn’t work that way and perhaps it’s because we have a child with special needs and that makes us not as mobile as some families.

We talked about how I don’t LOVE working out, and most days I don’t want to do it, until after I’m done and I’m all, “HELL YEAH!” It’s not an easy thing to be motivated all of the time, but we do it because it feels so good to be done. I do know that if my friend doesn’t make her health a priority, she won’t be around to schlep her kids all over. I wish I could help her, but all I can do is be there to listen. She knows I love and support her.

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