Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Am I Over-scheduling my Child? - by Margaret Hart

Sometimes I wonder if I'm at risk of becoming one of those mothers who over-schedules her children.   
My son currently has after-school activities Monday through Thursday, and plays in a basketball league on the weekend.  So far that schedule is working for him, and for our family, and he's having a great time.  So why am I questioning his schedule? Well, for one thing, I worry a lot. But don't all moms? 
My son is super social, very athletic, and has a seemingly unending supply of energy and interests. He likes to talk and he likes to move. He's not a couch potato.  And he's not one to just sit and contemplate his navel. So I keep him active by enrolling him in activities that I know he enjoys, and that I hope will enrich his mind and body.  And he likes it that way.
I also believe in allowing for down time in his schedule, so I try to ensure he has at least one afternoon a week for a play date, or time to just come home from school and do whatever he wants.  The thing is, when you are an only child, sometimes doing whatever you want isn't as much fun as having something scheduled. (Especially when mom isn't' good at Twister!)
So I spend a good deal of time crafting and managing my son's social calendar and activity schedule.  I guess you could say I'm like his manager.  I handle his sports, arts, and academic activities, schedule all his play dates, and RSVP to all the birthday parties.   As crazy as it sometimes gets, I'd rather have him at a play date, taking guitar lessons, participating in chess club, or dancing in hip hop class, then sitting at home every afternoon and complaining that he needs more than 30 minutes of screen time.  
I'm not the kind of parent that pushes activities on my child. But I present the opportunity and suggest that he try new things. If there is an activity he's unsure about, I always tell  him that he doesn't have to continue if he doesn't like it.  Nowadays, most businesses that cater to children let you have a trial class to decide. That's just smart. Less paperwork for everyone. And satisfies parents.
Besides scheduling challenges, our only real issue has been finding the time to fit in all the activities in which my son wants to participate–and the budget to pay for them!  Getting everything organized is always a challenge:  finding a day that works, a time, getting the right class, the teacher you want, coordinating with friends. It's all a juggling act. 
Add to the mix, school breaks and early dismissal days. Take, for example, the upcoming February winter break.  Ordinarily, I'd schedule play dates and maybe arrange a field trip for a group of his friends to a local museum.  Or, if we were lucky, we might take a vacation to the Caribbean.  Yeah, right.
This year, however, because I'll be caring for my mother, who is having knee replacement surgery, I decided it would be a good idea to enroll my son in a winter break camp.  I registered him for a morning sports camp until 12:30pm, and an afternoon chess camp from 12:00 to 3:00pm. He is excited about both.  But you can see my problem? The schedules overlap .  Why don't these camps get this? 
To make it all work, I'm going to pick him up 30 minutes early from sports camp, and have him eat his lunch in the car while we drive to chess camp, fifteen minutes away.  And this is exactly the type of scheduling scenario that makes me ask myself if I'm over scheduling my son.  I rationalize by saying that this is a special week and if my mom weren't here, I would only have signed him up for sports camp. No guilt.
As long as my Outlook Calendar doesn't crash, and my son continues to be happy and healthy, I guess I will continue to keep him busy and his schedule buzzing.  After all, it's not that busy.  : )

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