Lifestyle

I Realize Now How Over-Scheduled My Family Used To Be

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Oh, how I wish my kids had anywhere to go outside of this house: A sporting practice of some sort, a birthday party, a study session at Starbucks, or a dance lesson. I wish my husband had a morning of golf. I wish I had more purpose than practicing La La Land “Easy Piano” songs, finding movies that we all would like to watch (which is impossible), and baking and cooking for the six people that are quarantined in these walls.

But I also appreciate the simpleness of the empty calendar. Admit it, how good did it feel to hit “delete event” on everything on your calendar? It was freeing, wasn’t it? The weekends are blank slates, with nowhere to be. Dinners include everyone around the table. No one is rushing off for a meeting or to finish homework or to watch a game or show; no one is joining dinner late.

There is time to linger and have conversations and listen to each other like we might when guests are present. Our conversations and discussions are important, because they’re really the only ones we’re having. We moms like to post memes and inspirational quotes about taking time for the people in our lives that really matter; now we’re actually doing it.

courtesy of Erika Hanson

As much as I’m with my family during the quarantine, I have a hard time being fully present. My mind still wanders. I miss the busyness, to keep me focused. I miss my schedule. But I dread the busyness as well; I can’t really imagine running everywhere at all times again.

I know what coaches/instructors/leaders say behind the backs of parents’ who run their young kids from one activity to the next: “It’s easier for a parent to let someone else deal with their kid, entertain their kid, discipline their kid, argue with their kid than for the parent to do it themselves.” A busy, over-scheduled kid only really has time at home to inhale their dinner and sit on a screen for a few minutes before bedtime; that doesn’t leave much time for arguments.

Childhood anxiety is on the rise, and some pediatric specialists believe that over-scheduling is, in part, to blame.

If you have a child with ADHD, and/or a “tricky fellow,” you are an exhausted mom. You need to share that kid with someone, am I right? I need a break from my own son, to be able to see the positives. A simpler schedule can significantly improve behaviors associated with ADD/ADHD.

Child psychologist Kim Payne, author of the book Simplicity Parenting, conducted a study in which the lives of children with ADD were simplified. Within four months, 67% of these children went from clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional, and 37% saw an increase in academic aptitude. All this from slowing down and paring down their activities.

The coronavirus was a chance to hit “pause” on the busy. During quarantine, our young kids are no longer being driven by an adult from one adult-led activity to the next. The adults that are home are likely trying to work, and can’t cue children at every turn; kids need to figure out things on their own. As Lenore Skenazy and Peter Gray stated in the New York Post, “Kids are solving new problems, adapting and muscling through, because they have no choice.”

I miss strangers. I miss casual friends. I miss other people’s kids. I miss the community. I miss connecting with other parents while at games and recitals. As my friend Sue said “It’s amazing how I can feel so lonely, while just wanting time to be alone.” Our kids and spouses can’t be everything for us.

I love that “It Takes a Whole Village” to raise a child, and I miss the village. But I don’t miss the jam-packed calendars and constant running, and given the chance to return to normal, I’m not sure I will.

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