Overscheduled kids: A Chicago mom wonders how much is too much

When my son was three years old I decided to enroll him in a foreign language program. It was my first introduction to the world of managing a child’s activity schedule. Once a week, for 30 minutes, I would gather with other overzealous parents in hopes that our children would become multilingual and solve the world’s problems. As we sat in the waiting room, I listened to parents rattle off all of the activities they shuttled their kids to on Saturdays. I found it overwhelming to think about chauffeuring my child to three or four activities in week, let alone in one day. At the time I felt like a slacker because our weekly Spanish class was the extent of our formal activity.

 That's it. Was that enough? 

Now that my son is in school I’ve begun to think differently about his involvement. I won’t deny that I have a vision for my son’s life. I’m very deliberate about the activities I sign him up for. However, now that he has become more vocal about what he’d like to do, I try (the key word here is try) to take that into consideration. But then there’s my budget. My son’s language classes were $195 a month. One year he was enrolled in Spanish, piano, art, soccer and karate lessons. I felt like I need a part-time job just to pay for after school activities. It was then that I had to stop and think to myself; was it for him or me?

Did I secretly want to be able to rattle off all the activities my son was involved in to whoever would listen?

Was he really enjoying them or just going through the motions because, for the most part, these were fun activities?

 Are Saturdays made for family time or for rushing from one practice or game to another? 

I want my son to be a well-rounded young man one day. I want him to be comfortable in any circle he’s in. But I also want him to understand time management and the importance of being dedicated to something, but not everything. I think there’s a huge difference.

I will admit that there were times where I felt like I was living through my son. Or that there were experiences I had (or didn’t have) as a child that I wanted him to have; regardless if he was interested or not.

I don’t have the answers or think there is one right or wrong way. I do know that this year I’ve only signed my son up for one activity. Since it only meets twice a month we have weekday afternoons and weekends to explore and create our own fun. And when he tells me that there’s something he’d like to explore more in-depth, I will sign him up.

 But for right now, this is enough.
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