Not Just Child's Play: After-school Armageddon
Editor’s note: Today we are starting a bimonthly parenting column. We welcome your ideas. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere right? Well, if you are the parent of elementary school students who are involved in extracurricular activities, then 5 p.m. is roughly the time when you are wondering if you are going to crack.
Homework is not completed and they need your help, they have not eaten dinner and you have just planted pizza in front of them for the second time this week.
Forms need to be filled out for school, tomorrow is “dress up like an artist” day, your other younger child cannot seem to find his soccer cleat, and you need to be out the door in thirty minutes. There is pleading, begging, yelling and sometimes tears. It’s probably the most frustrating and hectic few hours of your day. Know that the hurricane of insanity you feel is what we all feel.
Despite wanting to just run away on a Jamaican vacation, you can’t sail away, and, truth be told, inside, you don’t want to. You know, deep down, that in the structure of today’s world, this is life.
Society has manufactured a culture of craziness and we are its victims. You are left with the choice of limiting/restricting your child’s activities or jumping on the youth sports, dance, gymnastics, piano lessons bandwagon. Finding a balance and managing this madness is how you keep your life between the navigational beacons.
It’s OK to think that this new cultural norm has gotten out of control. When compared to our memories of the simpler times of our youth — when kids organized their own activities, away from adults, and learned, through trial and error, so many of the lessons we now believe they can only learn under our overseeing eyes — the structural rat race we find ourselves held captive by can seem senseless.
After all, it WAS different, and WE grew up to be successful adults, didn’t we? So, what changed, why did it change, and what can we do to help maintain our sanity even though we haven’t had a day off in over a year (or more)?
Well, society changed. We grew up in a safer world than kids grow up in today and negotiating for our kids’ safety meant supervising them more. As parents became less willing to allow their children the freedom of their own youth, the need for more organized activities arose.
The economy also changed. Many of us grew (enough of us) grew up in an era of one income families. That is no longer the norm. When you combine the advent of more organized activities with the natural time pressures caused by both parents working (present also in single-parent families) you get the hamster cage effect most of us experience.
So, rather than just pouring something tall and strong and enduring the chaos, what can we do to manage it? Realize that you can’t do it all, and, truth be told, it’s not good for you or our children to try. It’s OK to prioritize and do what’s manageable without overloading your children’s schedules as well as your own. Doing so will relieve some of the stress we are unnecessarily adding to our lives and afford time for our children to be more creative. It will also be good for the mental health of everyone in the family.
None of us gets more time. There’s 24 hours in a day for all of us. It’s up to us to decide what to do with it. We may not be able to just head on down to Margaritaville, but we can all do more to create its relaxed vibe here at home and heed the advice of Jimmy Buffett. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. …
Jennifer Lobasso is a teacher, coach, author and mother. Send column comments and questions to email@example.com