Parenting

Why Being Over-Scheduled Is Good For My Family

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After picking up my kids from a long day at school or a full day at summer camp, my kids will ask what the plan is. If it happens to be a calm(ish) activity- and event-free night, there are groans and complaints. They want to have dinner with friends, to go to practice, grab ice cream, or visit one of their “aunties” who are not blood related but are still extended family.

Why do we have to go home?! We want to do something!

My kids are the ones who boo last call and stand with their lighters in the air at concerts well after the band has left. They are social creatures and are active AF, and on the rare night we don’t have plans, they revolt. We idle at busy, but being over-scheduled is good for my family.

It’s not necessarily over-scheduled for us per se; it’s just that I have three kids (an 8-year-old and 6-year-old twins) who circulate in different interests and with different friends at all times. There is overlap, conflict, and so much spinning. There is also a jam-packed dry erase board indicating who has soccer, Little League, playdates, and whatever parks and rec program someone is signed them up for.

I am not sure which came first: the external or internal drive to be active. Did I create these extracurricular-seeking kids with a constant lineup of activities or have I needed to schedule activities for my kids so I could keep up with their energy? Let’s go with both.

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I am active too. Yoga, running, Crossfit, AA meetings, work, and meetups. I have always had a big social circle, and while we don’t do it as often as I would like, it was common to have dinner at least once or twice a week with friends.

My oldest daughter, who is now 8, has grown up with this. She is used to people stopping by the house just to say hello. She loves and craves this. My twins do too, but now that our friends have kids of their own and we tend to make friends with folks who already have children, the youth far outnumber the adults. I am more than okay with being left alone while the kids spend their attention on each other instead of me and the number of snacks they can consume before a meal. Our social events look more like last minute congregations around the grill or a thrown together meal of “I have chicken I need to cook, what’s in your fridge that needs to be eaten?” It’s loud and busy and fun. It’s what my kids need.

In many ways, this chaos is what I need too. I love catching up with friends and usually the only way to do it is at sporting events or family potlucks. And, honestly, I’d rather spend time with my kids in this way than spending time together in unstructured, quiet spaces.

I am always amazed by the people who can have “lazy” and “relaxing” days at home. Weekend mornings start with cartoons (unless we are dashing off to a game or practice), but once the television is off, the kids are ready to go. My kids can entertain themselves and sometimes they put their imaginations together and play really well with one another, but too much time at home means stir-crazy and bickering kids. Being home also means relentless requests for help (which they usually don’t really need), snacks (yes, more snacks), or a change of scenery (WHAT’S THE PLAN?!).

My anxiety and annoyance rise, I yell, and I like my kids less. In other words, being home with my kids all day is a nightmare.

Trust me, my kids have plenty of free time at home to ride bikes and play in their own space. There are still forts and crafts and board games, but we are all happier when they get out. Because, honestly, there are only so many messes I want to clean up. There are only so many arguments I want to listen to. There are only so many board games I can white knuckle my way through with one kid who is the sorest of losers, and two others who can’t remember whose turn it is after being told it is their turn. I will toss or kick a ball around with my kids, do science experiments, or an art project. These are short bursts of time followed by much longer stretches of time apart.

Less direct time with my kids means more quality time.

So we always have a plan to be together while being busy together. We grab our bikes and go for a ride. We find a new trail to hike. We hit the park, the library, and the pool—sometimes all in the same day. We go from school to dinner in the car to practice to homework to bed. We roll out of bed on Saturdays, take an hour for coffee and cartoons, and then hit the ground running. We jump from one event to the next, connecting dots of friendship and adventure. I often say we are running on fumes, but really we are just running. It’s what we do, and it works for us. Some lives are lived slow, ours is lived pedal to the metal fast.

My family is busy AF and I am not about to change it.

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