“Please, go take your guitar into the living room and practice for twenty minutes like you’re supposed to,” I ask. No, I beg just like I have to every single time the topic of music comes up.
“I don’t want to! I’m tired.” That pouty, pitiful look takes root in his face, and in no time, it grows into a full-bodied rebellion. “No! I’m not gonna do it!” Tommy confidently declares.
“Thomas, we don’t have time for this, man. You’ve got soccer in an hour and mom’s almost done with dinner. Start practicing!” I hate when I have to raise my voice, and I really don’t do it often, but there’s just not enough scheduled time in our day to have a discussion about it. Want to know what I really hate? It’s when I find myself raising my voice over something trivial like guitar practice. “You and Teddy have music lessons on Thursday. You have to practice the new stuff before then.”
“I’ll practice tomorrow.” A reasonable request, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s penciled in for yet another event on his social calendar.
“No, tomorrow you have something for Boy Scouts.” I pull out my phone and look at the calendar. I confirm tomorrow’s full schedule, and out of curiosity, I look at each day for the rest of the week- soccer, Boy Scouts, piano practice for Teddy, guitar for Tommy, and the list goes on. I flash forward to November and my stomach, weighed down by the prospect of even more activities, sinks to my feet faster than the deep dive of a rollercoaster. Basketball is starting up, and even further on the horizon yet still casting its shadow menacingly over our free time is ninja class. Are there even enough days in the week? “Ugh, basketball and ninja class are starting up soon too.” I click the home button on my phone and hang my head.
Tommy runs to the couch, flops on it, and sprawls out dramatically. “Too much, Dad! I just want to lay down!”
“Me too, buddy.”
That night, after winning the battle of practicing guitar and eventually getting everybody to their designated activity for a Monday night, I mulled over and over again a conversation about schedules with my wife. How terrible am I? The entire rest of the day, after seeing how stressed and overtired Tommy was, the only thing I could think about was getting rid of one of the boys’ activities. Listen, I get it. It’s important to expose our kids to a wide variety of clubs, sports, and other activities so that they can find their interests, their passions, their futures. I’m a strong advocate of that, but for the love of God, this is getting out of control! I once found Teddy brushing his teeth and reading a book at the same time. I can hear you now. Chris! What are you complaining about? Your kid is reading every second of the day? That’s awesome!
He was frantically trying to finish his homework because he didn’t have time throughout the day and knew he needed to do it before bed. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “Dad, I didn’t have time to do my homework. I had piano and then the Care Package for Troops with Boy Scouts. I’m trying to finish it now.”
He is EIGHT. YEARS. OLD!
The night of Tommy’s failed music rebellion, when they were all tucked in their beds, I bravely decided it was time to discuss with my wife the fact that we just had too much on our plates. My wife, whom I love more than I will ever be able to convey in words, is a strong-willed woman, and I love her for it. She takes so much pride in being a mother, and if I’m continuing to give you the truth and nothing but the truth in this blog, she does way more of the running around to activities than I do. I was worried I was in for a battle with her because I know she really likes that the boys are involved. She’s passionate about the boys being a part of teams, learning new skills, and finding what they love. She is not wrong that these things are important. However, I tend to think that sometimes too much can do more harm than good. Check out this article I stumbled upon regarding this very issue:
I thoughtfully considered the delivery of my opening remarks and was ready to present my case in front of the judge. Expecting a battle of wills and even accusations that I only wanted more time to fish (which let’s be honest, isn’t entirely unfounded), I was incredibly surprised with what came after the start of our discussion. She agreed! Not only did Michelle agree, but it was like a wave of relief washed over her when she heard me lay out my evidence. Initially, we both felt a ton of guilt and questioned if eliminating an activity made us bad parents. Is it because we can’t handle the stress anymore? Is it because we’re being selfish? How come other parents can handle all the activities and our family can’t? We questioned and debated endlessly the decision, but ultimately we arrived at some very simple revelations.
Each family is unique. We’re not bad parents, and I will stand firm by the notion that if parents are stressed and anxious, their kids will emulate those same emotions and behaviors. I’ve seen it in my boys. Since school started up again and along with it a plethora of activities, our boys have been prone to meltdowns, tears, and increased sass. They are happiest when we are playing in the backyard as a family, watching a movie together, or eating dinner as a unit and talking about the silly parts of our day. A lot of that seems to have been on the back burner these last few weeks, so Michelle and I decided we want to get back to that a bit more- especially headed into the winter. We’re not dropping everything. Music though is headed for the trash bin. As somewhat of a creative person, I hate that the artsy thing is being eliminated, but I think it’s important to be honest with ourselves as parents. Teddy and Tommy just aren’t interested in it. It’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to practice, and I swear there are gouge marks in the drywall from their fingernails digging in as we try and drag them out of the house to lessons. What’s the point? Are we keeping them in it so we feel great about ourselves as parents? I guess I will never be able to hear them play in an orchestra at some fancy concert hall. Or, maybe I will. Maybe they will come back to it themselves in the future. At least, however, they will be a little less scheduled for now. A little less stressed. And maybe, just maybe, we can get back to the family time we’ve been missing.
All I know for sure is that we are spreading not only ourselves too thin, but the kids as well, and for that reason, I don’t feel bad at all about dropping one of their activities. They’re going to be just fine, and the boys have plenty of other things that will keep them engaged and help them grow as individuals. We’re excited to free up a day or two during our hectic weeks. Not because it’s easier on us or because it will allow time for our own sanity, which I’ll admit are bonuses, but largely because it will give us all a chance to catch our breath and spend time with each other again. I might be teaching my kids that it’s okay to quit something, and a lot of people might think that’s bad parenting. I’d argue that I’m teaching them to slow down, appreciate family time, and that balance in life is important.
What are your thoughts on this? Is your family’s schedule packed a little too much like ours is? Do you feel guilty whenever you have to eliminate something? Is that guilt currently stopping you from freeing up some time? I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you agree or disagree. Please comment below and don’t forget to share.