Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Way Things Are

Did you know  my printer broke? I mean...flat out busted. And right when I was gearing up to do the most interesting weeks of summer school (in my opinion)...two weeks of India, France, and Australia. I was so looking forward to these...and then...BOOM!!

I guess I could've begged people to print stuff for me...but the fact is that it is A LOT of paperwork (worksheets, coloring pages, graphs...and lets not forget my highly detailed and highlighted lesson plans)...but I felt guilty requiring that much ink from anyones printer but my own.

Hey...times are tough...and ink is expensive.

Likewise, to go and spend hours at a Kinkos sifting through my stuff and printing there didn't seem feasible either.

And besides, I have been known to get a sudden idea and run to my computer, look it up, and print the directions or article or WHATEVER...all on the fly. And I couldn't very well do that if my printer was...well...not HERE.

So...we stopped.

I mean...we still swam, and went to the beach, and the dollar movies. We still did scripture study, and had time for reading, and I broke out the old handwriting worksheets...but for the most part...summer school ended.

And I was kinda sad.

My kids weren't. Although they won't admit it while they are in the throes of school, they actually ENJOY summer school. When I'm gearing up for it, they get all excited about it starting. And when it's over, they are always mourning the loss. But in the MIDDLE of it...when they want to go out and play and I make them write their journal entries first...there's a lot of moaning and groaning.

So at first...they were all excited. More time to play!! More time to be on the Wii!!

After about 4 days, the: "Mama...what can I dooooooooo?" 's set in.

I hate the "Mama-what-can-I-doooo"'s.

Bane of my existence.


Anyway...there are so many things to write about...we have Brighams short career in football (and just like summer school, yet another example of not appreciating what you've got till it's gone).

And there's my birthday (which really is just a story about a cupcake, and might get relegated to the Food Chain portion of this blog).

And there's all the upcoming Back-to-School...what with insane supply lists (they get more elaborate every year), all the "special circumstances" that each child seems to have this year, and even the weather (we're already on storm name "G"...can you believe it? None of them have come close...but still...we're just careening through the alphabet and it's not even September!!)...

But today I wanted to share this article from the New York Times about over-booking kids.

I am a purist parent. And it's mostly because of finances. We simply cannot afford to put 5 children in every activity they desire. It's not that I wouldn't LIKE's just not feasible.

I think Kaitlyn would really benefit in private voice lessons and art or photography classes...just to build on her strengths. And Joseph could use private music lessons as well, along with joining a swim team. And Savannah wants to dance, and cheer, and play sports, ride horses, and learn music...all at once. And Brigham NEEDS a sport (although his foray into football was a slight disaster...but more on that later)...and Nicolette has a SERIOUS talent for gymnastics and/or diving...and I would LOVE to build on that.

But I just can't. I have them signed up for Scouts because it is the most reasonably priced activity there is...and I stay very active and involved in it so THEY stay very active and involved in it.

But finances aren't the ONLY reason...I also believe that children gain more from being at HOME...with their FAMILY...than they do out in the world. Children learn many of your kids picked up a swear word after hearing a random construction worker utter it as you walked past? (Just for note: My kids didn't need a construction worker...they learn all the swear words they'll ever many for special occasions...right from their mothers mouth every time she stubs her toe). I'd rather have my kids getting those learning moments at home...from me...than from a coach, teacher, or other parent. After all...I think there's a lesson to be learned about seeing your mother wash her own mouth out with soap.

It's not that I don't believe in extra-curriculars at all...I just believe in moderation.

And in almost direct contradiction with the above statement...I DO wish I could do more. And when I talk with other moms, and the conversation rolls around to: "Well...MY kid does____________________ (fill in the blank with multiple activities)"...I always get uncomfortable.

First of all, these moms that talk about the expense and the time commitments LIKE they're complaining...but they're really not. There's a hint of bragging in their voices, like we're all supposed to be impressed that their kids do 20 different activities a week, or spend every weekend traveling for various sports teams, or that her husband and her haven't seen each other for WEEKS because they're so busy chauffeuring different children to different commitments. And then, when other moms chime in about THEIR kids, and the sacrifices THEY make to ensure their future soccer stars and art prodigies are successful in the world of fame and becomes an almost-argument...the whole: "My-kid-is-better-than-your-kid"...which is really a cover for: "I'm-a-better-mom-than-you-are".

Eventually, these moms notice that I have not offered any assertions of my parenting prowess, and like hungry wolves, they stop bickering amongst themselves and collectively turn on me.

"What do YOUR kids do?"

And I am a deer in the headlights of a monster truck. And I weakly offer: "Scouting."

"That's IT?"

They are condescending...incredulous at my obvious lack of mothering pride. They gang up and start spewing random facts they read in their latest issue of US Weekly and Better Homes and Gardens about how kids NEED sports, and MUST have multiple extra-curricular activities to fill in the gaps of what they are NOT receiving in our budget-cut schools...and how will my kids grow up and be functioning members of society without joining three separate traveling tennis teams?

I'm all but accused of contributing to childhood obesity, the fall in scholastic performance scores, and the rise in crime.

"Busy children are happy children," I'm told...and with a sniff and a flip of their $250 highlighted hair with feather extensions, they stomp off to further berate me out of my presence.

I used to try and justify myself...I'll admit it, I was a little ashamed that we couldn't do more...and I wanted to prove that I was a good mother, too. I'd start by giving excuses because we have a large family on a single income, only one car, and that we do A LOT of activities together as a family. But these excuses often fell on deaf ears, and I realized that no matter what I said, these women held the opinion that I obviously didn't love my children, because if I did, I would happily go bankrupt paying their activity fees.

And so...I stopped arguing, and let them tirade against me...figuring that they weren't exactly the kind of women I'd want to make friends with anyway.

I, personally, can't stand reading Us Weekly.

And, as time has gone on, I've stopped feeling (as) ashamed. True...I still wish I could do more...but not to prove to other moms that I am, indeed, a qualified parent. But rather because, as I previously stated, I see a lot of untapped potential in my kids, and I wish I could help them develop it. I would like to assist them in finding a sport, or hobby, that they truly enjoy.

But alas, the world is an expensive place. Gone are the days that you could go to the local community center and sign your kids up for a slew of classes. Everything is privatized, and EXPENSIVE...amounting in hundreds of dollars a month for membership fees, supplies, uniforms, gear, food, gas, and competition entry fees (in my area, some sports, like swimming and horseback riding, require you to enter so many competitions a month in order to stay on the team).

And I do believe that too many activities can hurt your children. I believe kids need down time to relax, to engage in creative play away from technology and structured activities (getting my kids away from technology is tough...getting ME away from technology is tough).

I believe that families need time together...that meals need to be shared, that regular activities and meetings need to be scheduled and honored...but also that impromptu moments need a chance to blossom.

And I believe that moms and dads need time to re-connect...time alone without the pressures of kids and family. And that can't happen if you're always heading in different directions.

Everyone has a different situation. I'm not saying that sports and classes are in of themselves bad things!! Like I said...I wish we could take part in more activities...but not an endless conveyor belt of extracurriculars. You may have that kid that really IS a prodigy, and traveling soccer is exactly what your kid needs. But I believe the majority of activities are just overkill.

I think a lot of kids don't need ten different sports and five different classes. I don't think that if the only time you spend with your kid is in the car while you shuttle him all over town necessarily makes you a good parent.

Every once in awhile, I find an article that agrees with me...and this is one of them. I encourage you to read it. Whether your a feather-extensioned soccer mom, or a dedicated homebody like's an interesting read.

And you can weigh in on this debate...ARE children over-booked? And what does that say about us, as their parents?