I’ve come across a lot of articles recently about the dangers of over-scheduling your children’s free time. And while I get it, over-scheduling is not something I worry about. Sure, it’s important for children to have time for free play and to wind down from school and other structured activities, but in my experience, under-scheduling can be problematic too.
Of course, what it really comes down to is that when I’m planning my children’s schedules, most of the scheduling is done for me. That might sound self-centered but hear me out because I have my reasons.
My children are still young (all three are under eight years old). They would be perfectly happy sitting around watching TV, playing video games, and wallowing in the dirt in our yard all day every day. While they typically enjoy going to tennis lessons or soccer or gymnastics class or library story time or whatever other activities I can find, if we stopped doing them, they probably wouldn’t complain very much.
On the other hand, I would lose my mind.
While I’m usually content sitting around doing nothing when I’m by myself, when I’m with my kids, large blocks of downtime tend to make my anxiety spike as ferociously as an Olympic beach volleyball player. I worry about not doing enough and wasting the best years of my life and failing to enjoy my children while they are young and a litany of other mostly ridiculous things.
However, when we are out doing things, and more specifically, when they are doing things and I get to watch, all such worries seem to float away like dust from one of our ceiling fans.
I think what it comes down to is, I love watching my children doing. It doesn’t matter what they are doing, I just can’t get enough of them being involved. Of getting to see them existing in the world beyond the walls of our home.
I love watching my younger son play soccer. I love how hard he tries. I love how he pumps his arms when he runs, desperately trying to keep up with the giant clump of kids constantly huddled around the ball. I love when his coach (who is wonderful) says, “He was on fire today!” Because it’s so ridiculous, but weirdly rewarding to hear.
I love watching my older son play tennis. I love how he carries on a running conversation with the coach whenever possible (so unlike me). I love how he expresses unbridled joy at every small accomplishment. I love when the coaches tell me how much they enjoy having him in the class.
I love watching both the boys at their tumbling class. Playing together. Just being kids. Exchanging enthusiastic high fives with their coaches when they complete a rudimentary skill. Building their strength and becoming just a little bolder each week.
And while my daughter hasn’t agreed to participate in many structured activities yet, I can’t wait for her to get started.
There’s just something about watching my kids do things that makes me feel better about myself as a parent. And I think that counts for something.
So, if you’re on the fence about signing your kids up for activities, I say go for it if you can. It’s nice to see the children you’re working so hard to raise doing their thing out in the world. Whatever that thing might be. And breaking up the routine is always good, too.