About four years ago, when we had a seven, six and three-year old and a six-month old baby, I thought life was busy. Between first grade, preschool, diapers and not nearly enough sleep, I did a lot of running around. And I had this idea that things would get easier as all these kiddos got older.
I pictured a time – and I’m almost there, actually – when no one would be in diapers and everyone would be in school and able to keep themselves occupied in a non-destructive way that wouldn’t involve investigating choking hazards with their mouths. What would I do with all that free time?
Obviously, the sleep deprivation was way worse than I realized. Because here we are, preschool deposit paid and about six months away from dedicated, completely kid-free time during the weekdays. And we have never been busier.
Turns out, the tipping point has been kiddo number three and his sudden eagerness to “do stuff! But not karate. And not soccer. Can I play basketball? And I want to play baseball too.”
The older two have been involved in extracurriculars for the last six years. That sounds nuts, but when it began, they were in the same thirty-minute martial arts class. It was offered five days a week, with no pressure to choose a routine. It was easy, non-stressful and a good outlet for their excess energy.
Things are a little busier these days, with the oldest starting his for-real, work-your-ass-off black belt. I’m simultaneously impressed and dreading the whole thing, because he’s ten and that means any commitment on his part is really a commitment on my part to get him everywhere he needs to be. And recently, our daughter, eight, was invited to begin teaching the preschool martial arts program she once attended, and you better believe she’s thrilled.
But even with a months-long black belt test and a little instructor, martial arts isn’t the issue. It’s one place and one drop-off/pick-up time for two kiddos. Easy peasy.
It’s kid number three – the six year old – pushing us into overscheduled territory.
The thing is, there’s nothing we can do about it. He’s watched his siblings participate in their activities of choice for years – everything from martial arts to gymnastics to soccer. And now he’s ready for his turn, and of course he can try basketball and baseball and I’m kind of scared to hear what else.
We dove straight into this whole three-busy-kids thing late last fall. He started taking swim lessons because, clearly, he needs to know how to not drown. And it was only thirty minutes on Friday afternoons, so fine, bring it on.
Basketball, which we’re just wrapping up, has been fine too. Games on Wednesdays and Saturdays, four six-minute quarters, it’s like forty minutes total out of our day.
But we just finished the insane registration process for baseball, which involved original birth certificates and multiple proofs of residency and, you know, letters of recommendation from God himself. The older two are excited for spring soccer to begin, and then there’s the black belt test and the teaching thing.
So now, we’re looking at a spring season with martial arts, soccer and baseball and all the classes, practices, mandatory draft days, games, end-of-season parties and whatever else comes with them.
I’m pretty sure baseball involves mid-week games, soccer will be midweek practices and Saturday games, and martial arts is jammed around all of that. Oh, and swim on Friday. And school. And homework. And real work, so that we can pay for all of these enriching little experiences and still eat.
I have to believe that one day, things really will calm down. But as I listen to our three year old loudly voicing her plans for the very near future – every single activity her siblings do – it’s dawning on me that we probably haven’t seen anything yet.
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