Writing Workshop: Over-scheduled and underplayed?

January 20, 2011

3.) It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?
         I will answer this from the perspective of both our lifestyle and a little from my own upbringing. Hopefully this will be the first of many blog entries that describe “the life”.
      Prior to children I left the house at 6 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m. to an empty house and a dog. I would turn on every light and always had the radio or TV on. During the first year or two of our marriage I felt that when DH was home, I needed to be with him every minute possible when I wasn’t working. I’d spend the first weekend he was gone shopping from sun up to sun down. Then I realized this was crazy! I managed to get things to a happy medium before children—and in fact on our 16-day trip to Great Britain, we even spent one day apart from each other to get some alone time.
         When the children came along, I had to find new ways to cope. Being busy is how I cope. We had play group and library time for T1 and I had monthly scrapbooking with the girlfriends. I took advantage of being able to travel whenever I wanted. Life had to go on even though DH was at sea. T1 had a hard time with this. She had the undivided attention of at least one parent every waking moment; always someone to interact with. The first week after he left for sea was such a challenge for me. T1 needed to be interacted with—I couldn’t be left alone to do the laundry like I had the luxury of doing while DH was home. Being busy that first week did not necessarily help T1 and it just delayed the chores I could get to. I learned that I had to just stop; stop and hold T1, play, read, and slowly wean T1 from constant interaction.
         Things became a little easier with the arrival of T2, especially when T2 was interactive and a playmate. We had also moved to our current home and city. I gave up playgroup but I still did the library thing. I still scrapbooked monthly with old friends and we still traveled whenever possible.
        As the children grew we began activities for social interaction. KinderDance/KinderGym was a great way to begin preschool preparation and provide physical activity. Both children went to preschool—to prepare both for being the youngest in their respective grades, with T2 making the cut-off by just two weeks. But we didn’t have play dates or invitations to a gazillion birthday parties.
        At first T1 was allowed to take both ballet and tap to determine interest (and provide a little grace for the gentle giant) and developmental soccer soon followed (to provide the team experience). I did not sign T1 up for scouts only because I did not see value in the lowest level. Once scouts and soccer started taking a more active part of our lives, T1 was given the option: dance or soccer. She was already just limited to one dance form (ballet so that she could dance in the Nutcracker) but I was seriously hoping she would opt out of dance. She had to go to class one time in a soccer uniform because there was an overlap and with DH at sea I couldn’t be in two places at one time, and the studio owner read me the riot act. Your life and the lives of your children may be dance, but my 8-year-old does not know what she wants to do just yet and I refuse to limit her.
        I think T2 would have wanted to continue dance but once I got the oldest to pick soccer, the realization that it is nearly impossible for me to be in two places at once made the decision for T2. To placate her, I did sign herself and me up for Soo Bahk Do Karate. It was going to be the thing she and I did together because I was already doing scouts and soccer with T1. The impracticality of making T1 sit through karate class when DH was at sea soon had her enrolled in the classes too.
        So currently, we are involved in church, scouts, soccer and karate. That is and can be a lot. I have friends that help out with the conflicting soccer schedules that arise when DH is at sea. But for the most part, we do all this together. I often say my busiest part of the day is from 4-8 p.m., 4-7 times a week. Play dates still do not happen with much frequency and often happen as babysitting in disguise. Sleepovers and party invitations are few and far between. But they see their friends in all their activities.
      Vacations are jam-packed. My philosophy is that if I wanted to sit and read a book—I could do that in the comfort of my own home (and cheaper!). I’ve taken the children away during winter breaks when DH is at sea over Christmas. Those vacation days include no less than 3 activities (and yes, eating out is considered one of those three things). So don’t vacation with me if you just want to sit by the pool!
      DH however is not overly fond of the busyness. And I’ve had to compromise on vacation plans when he is home. He prefers the day trip as opposed to the week at the beach. I don’t blame him—he’s gone so much and this is his down time. He has agreed to make those day trips as jammed packed as possible. It has been a good compromise.
      So do my children lack imagination? Yes and no. I’ve seen them invent things. I’ve seen them play and act. I’ve seen them devour books. On the other hand, they have had trouble “entertaining” themselves over long breaks. The best remedy for this has been when the TV and computer have been taken away for punishment—the things they come up with by the second day have been inventive. I will say, that as an English major who loves to write, the fact that neither child writes is very distressing. T1’s writing is the most upsetting—she has no idea how to focus the who, what, when, where, how or why. I was writing short stories on a frequent basis when I was her age. Is this because I had nothing else to do (money was a limiting factor to the number of extras we had)?
      Or is this a failure of her teachers? I have noticed that in 1st and 2nd grade one- to two-word answers were acceptable. When 3rd grade rolled around and complete sentences were expected, T1 fought this so hard. Verbally she could do this, but writing it down was a whole other story. Some of it has to do with her rules obsessions—the teacher is always right; now the new teacher was telling her that the previous two teachers were *gasp* wrong! I shudder to think of what her 5th grade standardize writing test will show.
      T2 seems to be less resistant and she did have about 25 imaginary friends that she could tell you about and draw pictures of. But she does not have the patience or desire to write her own stories. She will voraciously devour books though.
      Both children take after DH with strong math and science skills. In a way, though I am sad I do not have a budding writer in either of them, I know that these skills may serve them better in the long run. While I did not have to ask “would you like fries with that?” and actually used my degree in the publishing industry, I want my children to always be self-sufficient.
      So the busyness helps to me to cope with: 1., the loneliness of DH being gone, and 2., provides less time for the children to be needy and get into trouble. It helps the children to have 1., social interactions they wouldn’t otherwise—we just don’t live in a neighborhood with children, and 2., provides opportunities to try new things and go to new places (dance, indoor soccer, scout trips). Also, the activities we do we do as a family. Scouts we’re together. Soccer has had both DH and I on the field helping the coaches. I teach at the Bible camp so that I can go with the children. I live for Soo Bahk Do for the relaxation it provides me and the confidence T1 and T2 have learned. These activities are not just glorified play dates or free babysitting. I’m with them all the time and DH participates as much as he can.
      It may be busy but I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Writing Prompts:
1.) Something unique you love about your significant other.
2.) A photo journal entry…show us what winter looks like in your town.
3.) It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?
4.) 10 Reasons Why I Could Never Be Friends With…(fill in the blank)
5.) How has social media changed you?
For more on the Writing Workshop, click on the Pink Poodle over there…



  1. I understand. Mine choose one activity at a time and so far that’s working pretty well. I miss the busyness I had as a SAHM but working outside the home again means the kids need to choose. The Girl does horseback riding but since her dad pays for it and it’s always on his day I’m OK with that 🙂

  2. Visiting from MamaKat’s. I wrote about the same thing. We’re super-duper busy. But we always busy as a family. 🙂 These are the good years!

  3. Good perspective. My daughter is turning 3 in a few months, and we’re starting to contemplate activities. Soccer? Swim lessons? Maybe dance? Part of me wants her to do those things, and the other does not want to put forth the effort. We’ll wait and see what she wants to do. If she’s happy, I’m all for it. Even if my busy life goes haywire for a few years. As long as she’s happy and thriving.

    I hope she writes too… so few people know how to write these days. And kids have no clue how to spell b/c they text too much. It frustrates me.

    Thanks for visiting 3MomsIn1 today! So great to meet you.

    • I totally forgot about the summer swim lessons. We haven’t done them in a few years due to summer camp and vacations being limited to time off from school. I do recommend them just for making them “water proof.” It is a balancing act and to be honest I’m not looking forward to school activities playing a larger role next year when T1 goes to junior high. What will give? What can we keep? It’s become very important that the activities we do we do as a family. Will we lose that? And report cards came home today. T1 made honor roll but got Bs in all her language arts subjects while proudly announcing that the only one to get 100 on the SCIENCE benchmark was “yours truly.” I didn’t know how to respond to “As long as I made the honor roll, I’m happy.” I hope you get a writer! Thanks for commenting!

  4. It sounds like you do have a household that has balanced play-time with family-time and other activities and that is excellent. My kids were kept sufficiently busy but nothing like some others in my area. Balance is key. Stopped by to thank you for stopping by blogger blog last week!
    Have an abundant 2011! 🙂
    Positive Kismet Blog

    • Thank you! I do think at one point we were losing the balance. DH is happy to play the bad guy and let’s me say “My husband won’t let me.” I am totally aware that any time I complain I have to admit I have the problems of the priveledged–a true single mother would not be able to do all these things with their children nor have the chance to complain about “how busy”. Thanks again for stopping by! Blessings to you too in 2011!

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