Monday, August 8, 2011

Activity Overload

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Here is a fact about me you might not know. I like to be busy. Okay, maybe you figured that out. But I like to run around from place to place doing activities. I have always been this way. If I told you the presidencies I was in for various clubs and societies, and the choirs, my job, and the classes I took (all at the same time) while in college, still maintaining a 4.0 and a healthy social might get tired. I am not a homebody. I like to be involved.

This, of course, is a part of me I have put to rest since becoming a mom. As we all know, I highly value structure, routine, and consistency with things like meals and sleep. I also highly value time with my family. I value special memories. So I put my busy-body self to rest in favor of things of greater value.

Once McKenna hit two years old, this new freedom crept into our lives and I found myself more able to live a more busy lifestyle. It slowly built up until life was pretty busy for a mom with three young children. 

I tell you this because I am about to talk about a topic that is a hard one to swallow if you are someone like me. I want you to have a sense that I understand what it is like to want to do everything--to hate to miss one single opportunity in life. I get that perspective. 

People like me do not like to practice a reigning in of activities. No way. It might sound good on paper and in theory. When Brayden was a baby, and really, even when McKenna was a baby, I fully and logically understood the value of avoiding activity overload.

When reality steps in, however, you have to make some hard choices. When you are watching the parade and all of the fun tapping, gymnastic, dance, music, karate, hockey, etc. etc. etc. groups march by, you think about how fun it would be to do all of them! 

Two years ago, I finished spending three years working with the young women in my church, ages 12-18. I watched one girl from 12-15 during that time very carefully. She was (and is) and amazing young woman. So polite. So smart. So sweet. So kind. So service-minded. So much of everything I would love for any daughter of mine to be like. What's more, her four younger siblings were all equally as wonderful, and I fully enjoyed her parents. 

One day we got talking about activities. I don't remember how it came up, but she shared that her parents instituted a rule for activities. They could do one musical and one physical activity at a time. She commented that with that rule, her mom wasn't always in the van driving them around. 

At the time I thought it was a great idea! And I still do. I think that even more today than I did then. Let's look at last school year and the activities our family did. Each week, Brayden had piano lessons. Each week, Kaitlyn had dance class. For 6 weeks, the two older children had ice skating lessons (once a week). And for two months, Brayden played soccer. During the summer, the two older children took swimming lessons.

Let me tell you, last spring was a busy and stressful time for my brain. Not only do 4 of the five people in my family have birthdays in a two month period (my doing--I planned it), we had a dance review (with extra practices), soccer games, school functions, a piano recital, and Easter. It was a busy couple of months, and that was just two children in activities, and only three activities total. 

I see the value in limiting what your children are involved in. It is important to have evenings free with your family to do various things, from planting a garden at home to going out on some family adventure. I see the value in being able to be home for family dinner. I see the value in having enough consistency at home that the children have a solid foundation to come back to. 

Hard? Yes! It is hard to choose what to do and what not to do. I wish I had all of the answers and some top ten list of guidelines for you in choosing activities, but I don't. Not yet anyway :). I hope to someday. For now, we are taking it one step at a time. We are trying to balance the enrichment these activities bring with the enrichment time together as as family brings. We are learning as we go. Luckily for me, I have a husband who is not afraid to say no to an activity if he thinks it is too much. Sometimes I don't like it, but my logical self knows it is the right move. 

Just remember, you don't have to do everything. Do what you think works for your family and what you think would benefit your child. 

Make a list of your own personal family priorities. Make sure activities don't interfere with these beliefs. May I suggest a priority? Make sure there is time in the day for your child to play and be a child. Allow for free play, creative play, imaginative play...if your activities are making it so there is no time to play, it is time to re-think your priorities. 

Get input from your child on what they are interested in. 

Take a moment to analyze what is beneficial at certain ages and what isn't. A lot of sports are just as easily learned in the backyard at home if you are under 8.

Have you practiced any great rules for avoiding activity overload? Do you know someone who has? If so, please share! I would love to hear the great ideas out there. 

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Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} said...

Great post! I am just learning the value of this as my little one is getting old enough to join more and more activities. It's tempting to put her in a variety of activities because I want to expose her to as many things as possible. But I don't want to cause undo stress on her or our family, either. A balance definitely needs to be found.

snydsy33 said...

I'm in the same situation as Maryea. My oldest is 3 now, and she is able to do many things she could not before, so I've thought quite a lot about this. I also came up with a rule of 1 sport, 1 music, and added 1 church-related weekly activity (AWANA). We haven't really started all that yet, but I want to have a rule in place before any temptations cause me to sign her up for everything. I think it will probably work well while she's young at least.

SBA said...

Good thoughts here. I recently wrote a post called Kids and Overstimulation about some of the same concepts, taken from idea from Kim John Payne's recent book, Simplicity Parenting. I found some of his ideas really valuable on this topic.
Susan @ Heart Pondering

Plowmanators said...

Thanks everyone!


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