Parents, Let's Take Back Our Weekends

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
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Before your child turns 18, you will have enjoyed (or endured) approximately 936 weekends with them.

Now subtract the first two to four years of their lives from that (the ones where they typically spend the entire weekend sleeping, eating, pooping, napping, or crying), and then about 30 weekends when they’re sick, and another 200 during the teen years when they’re MIA, and that leaves you with under 400 Saturdays and Sundays enjoying the weekend with your kids.

Now, I’m not here to offer up guilt, so stay with me here.

Is your family spending them relaxing your minds and bodies, recharging your souls, or engaging in some type of family-centered “We’re all together” type of activity? I’m guessing the answer is a big, fat, exhausted “NO.”

You need to change that answer to “yes,” and it starts with taking back your weekends.

I realized this years ago when a Little League coach didn’t think twice about scheduling a two-hour practice for 6-year-olds on a Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Really? Forget about the churchgoing families whom this infringes upon. Or how about the rushed two-parent working families who find the only together time they have occurs on a lazy Sunday morning when Dad makes his special pancakes? What about the exhausted second- and third-shift working parents whose only time to catch up on sleep occurs on weekend mornings?

After that, it was a no-brainer for us to decide that extracurricular activities which took place on Saturdays and Sundays were not right for our family. Now, realistically, this includes just about everything, so we have had to be somewhat flexible with this, but still we persisted and tried to have the kids engaged and playing in sports or other interests that happened only during the week. Our weekdays are hectic enough. We’re in the car enough rushing here and there, grabbing meals where we can, doing practice spelling tests in the backseat while whizzing down the highway at 65 M.P.H. We’ve had enough of mandatory attendance at this and that and the other, of carpool fiascos, “Am I doing piano today or you?” and kids falling asleep at the dinner table we set at 8:45 at night. ENOUGH.

So why make it continue Friday through Sunday night?

If your family has found a way to make weekend extracurriculars work for you, then well done. I realize this method isn’t for everyone. Truly.

If your kids are involved in year-round travel sports teams, and waking up at 6 a.m. to drive three hours for a soccer match, then spending $250 for a hotel room, dinner out, gas tank fill-up, and incidentals is your idea of fun, then I applaud your dedication and commitment.

If you spend 12-hour-long days sitting in stands, bleachers, auditoriums, and gyms on the weekends, you have my ultimate admiration. But personally, just the thought of all that effort and expense makes my brain (and my bank account) hurt. As a matter of fact, just following families like that on Facebook makes me tired.

Sure, my family spends its share of weekends traveling to sporting events, and taking our kids on exciting and educational adventures, but we limit those weekends to probably 10 a year. Of course, there are special circumstances when we have to attend a weekend event for a club, group, or sport, but I can’t help but feel a little sad about having to let go of our family weekend time when we do.

And as my children have gotten older (and busier), we are finding lazy weekends at home, the ones where the kids just hang in the neighborhood with friends, go for bike rides, take naps, get bored, entertain themselves, get bored again (but do it all in and around our home), are the best kinds of weekends we’re having — because we’re simply together.

And speaking from “it goes by so fast” experience (I’ve got a kid away at college), I would give anything to have all my kids back together and sitting bored on the couch this coming Saturday afternoon.

If you’re finding your weekends are overscheduled, overmanaged, and stressing out the entire family, then do not feel guilty about scaling back. Little by little, try to remove unnecessary commitments and adjust your expectations of what a fun-filled weekend is. They don’t have to be go, go, go and do, do, do to be fun. Bored kids left alone will eventually make up their own fun, and from what I remember as a kid, that was the best kind of fun I had.

Finally, learn the wonderful art of saying “no,” not only to other adults, but to your kids. Take back the family weekend. You’ll be glad you did. The kids will be too — most of the time.

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