We have NO free weekends until we take forced family fun time in July. None. Nadda one. We may have a Sunday possibly but more likely we have half a day EITHER Saturday or Sunday from here until …. forever. Because as soon as the crazy of summer ends, school begins, then snowboard season, then spring is back again. There is a two week period towards the middle of March where we have some semblance of calm.
I own the fact that we have a large family. I wanted my children so desperately, each and every one of them. I knew we’d be busy.
I had no idea.
I own the fact we allow our kids to participate in multiple activities throughout the year. (Except in the winter. We own the winter. It’s snowboard season. End of discussion. And even that’s total crap. Winter is snowboarding, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, gymnastics, dance, and religion. But no school sports.) Softball, dance, gymnastics, volleyball, orchestra – those are the voluntary ones. Religion, not state mandated, is required by me.
These are choices we make.
In my imaginary world, the one I created as a child, my family would be active and participate in the world. We would greet each other with a smile in the morning, go our separate ways until after whatever sports or music practice was over, and would gather ’round the dinner table and ask, “How was your day?” And we do get to eat together…once in a while. More often than not in the spring, summer, and fall months dinner may consists of grabbing whatever is handy, eating around the kitchen island in shifts. Whoever is home will eat together, then the next crew, followed by second and third dinners (I am raising hobbits) after practice or rehearsals.
Growing up Wednesday nights were off limits for all school or extra-curricular activities. It was a given. Here that is true for middle school (grades 6-8) activities for the most part. But it doesn’t apply to club sports. Or board meetings for adults. Because the family with busy, active kids comes from a set of busy, active parents. My husband and I are both on boards, volunteer throughout the year, and coach.
When we commit to a team we commit to the schedule. To bow out is to let down the team. But when did youth activities become so consuming? When did the first slip of the slippery slope begin? And how do we not get caught up in the tidal wave of activities and schedules? How do we say “No” to practice that falls on a holiday weekend or not play in a tournament that falls on Father’s Day? Do we take the punishment of reduced playing time or sitting the bench in order to maintain freedom? Or do we suck it up, go, and deal with the consequences of being constantly busy? When did the shift happen? So slowly that we didn’t notice our weekends being consumed one by one, over and over until we’re left with little down time?
I recently read an article by Gunmetal Geisha – you can read it here (and you should!). She dialed in on how marketing has us always thinking ahead – missing the moment we should be enjoying RIGHT now. Why in the world is it possible to walking into a store on February 13th purchase Easter eggs but not Valentines? Why do we always have to be 17 steps ahead of where we need to be tomorrow? It made me realize I tend to measure days by our busy. It’s become a marker of time and season for me.
In the summer I tend to shut down. We watch more television than we should, lay around, play in the pool, and play with friends. I don’t have my kids in camps and classes. Often feel a little like I’m letting them down. But this is one time of the year where we can just be…and not worry about where we need to be during the day.
I’ve been pondering how to take back time for my family. How to incorporate the activities they love and the time we need to connect as a family? And the only conclusion I’ve come to is….we travel as a pack. We snowboard together. Why not attend ball games together? Concerts? Forced Family Fun is only a little tongue in cheek…we do often force everyone to come to an event even if they are not participating. More often than not we end up having a good time and the ones watching support the ones participating as only siblings can do….by making fun of them. But it’s INTERACTION in the HERE AND NOW.
I’ve decided to embrace the crazy, love every minute I can, suffer through the minutes I can’t, and smile every single chance I get. And try to not sign up for any more than we can handle. Because at the end of the day…we’re in charge of our busy and how we handle it. As long as I stay in the here and now….I can keep us focused on what matters…our family.