Holiday weekends and getting the activity mix right

I’m mostly off this week, but thought I’d stop by for a quick post since I’m awake and no one else in my household is. Actually, last night was not bad at all. I went to sleep around 10:45 p.m., and while there were 2 wake-ups or so, I went back to sleep quickly both times, and got up for good at 6:15 a.m. My time logs are showing a lot of 2-hour waking stretches in the middle of the night, or waking up at 4 a.m. and not being able to get back down. I’ve been using this time to read my equivalent of brain candy (currently How Not to Diet by Michael Greger — long, but not too taxing…)

The kids are off school until January 2nd (big kids) and January 6th (pre-schooler). This is a lot of time! Fortunately, there are a lot of adults around. Our nanny is off, but my husband and I have both massively dialed down work until the 2nd, and my mother-in-law is also visiting us for the next two weeks.

The question is what to do with the kids. They like the idea of sitting around the house all day, but this tends to result in a lot of screen time and going stir crazy by the evening. So my general plan is to have one anchor event per day. Preferably this has been booked in advance, so there’s less arguing about it in the moment.

Or at least that’s the idea. The problem is that the plans then sometimes bump up against other stuff. On Saturday, I had bought Nutcracker tickets for the three big kids, my mother-in-law, and me (my husband took the 4-year-old to Costco to buy food for the next day’s party). But since the big boys had skipped swim practice late in the week, we strongly encouraged them to go to the YMCA with my husband to work out in the morning. So they were a bit grumbly about two excursions. And then Sunday we had church as usual (with a pageant rehearsal tacked on). My extended family came over for our holiday party. This was at my house, so technically the kids were at the house all afternoon, but there was a lot of stimulation. So, after everyone had left and I reminded the kids about our tickets for the Morris Garden Railway that night there was…insurrection.

The Morris is an arboretum run by the University of Pennsylvania, and they have pretty cool lights and a holiday train display over the holidays. They also have this large structure you can climb out on (Out on a Limb) into the tree canopy. The kids really like both things, and I knew they’d benefit from the walk and the fresh air so…we forced them into the van, reminded them it was 20 minutes there, 30 minutes for the arboretum, and then straight home. We listened to the screaming the whole way.

But…they had a reasonably good time. They climbed out on the nets among the trees (in the dark!). We saw Thomas and Percy, plus the Polar Express, twinkling lights, some hobbit holes and so forth. We left the house at 6:10 p.m. and were home by 7:40 p.m.

In any case, it was a reminder that in general, our planned excursions are going to be a good idea. In Off the Clock, I recommend a mantra for overcoming the inertia of the experiencing self: Plan it in, do it anyway. And while there’s the question of forcing other people to do things, it’s not like I got the garden railway tickets for my benefit. I had thought about what the kids might enjoy, and those are the activities I planned.

Now, this week, we have tickets for Longwood Gardens, and Cirque du Soleil… I will report back on how it goes!

In other news: The running streak began on December 24, 2016. So this morning was the end of three straight years. I may still run tomorrow though. I’m feeling reasonably good….

5 thoughts on “Holiday weekends and getting the activity mix right

  1. Laura – random question I would love to hear answered on the podcast. You have maintained quite the running streak. I’ve found myself at the gym without my running sneakers, or arriving to meet a friend to run and realizing I left behind a winter hat. Can you talk about a time that you weren’t 100% prepared for a run but managed to do it anyway? I would have to think this has happened to you at least once! 🙂

  2. Hi Lara,
    I have been reading your blog and books for years, in silence. But tonight I take the time to thanks you for your multiple advice. I’m a natural planner that thinks that weekend are means to play but having 2 premature kids (18 months apart) disoriented me and your books help. Now they are 4 and 5 years old and I organise several small activities with them (2-3 hours) on weekend. I find it easier than entertain them at home. However, my husband doesn’t feel the same. He prefers staying home doing his things and let the kid play (or fight) by themselves. In consequence, I’m often a ‘single mom’ on weekend because I have time… Yes I work full time + 1 hours commute and do grocery at 9PM on week day… (so I feel that it is not fair) I tried the Thursday evening planning but without success. Any suggestion for husband inertia ?

    thanks and all the best with baby 5 and the rest of the big family

    1. @MC – thanks for your note, I’m so glad my advice has been helpful in the past. Honestly, I think the best approach for you would be to disappear for some time on weekends. Your husband isn’t really exposed to the full reality of the kids having no structure — because you’re intervening. I think if you took some significant time away every weekend to compensate for the time you’re doing the active parenting and he’s not, the situation might change. Maybe a volunteer gig, training for a marathon, a hobby…

      Some people are more homebodies than others, but I do think that both parents need the chance to be the one doing the primary parenting. And if one person naturally steps in, that person needs to arrange to go away sometimes!

  3. Laura, listened to “Best of Both Worlds” while walking outside enjoying the sunrise (I usually listen during my commute)–I was inspired by your prior tip about getting outside during the winter. Really enjoyed this episode, especially hearing about what you two learned this year. So thankful for the both of you + the podcast. All the best to you both and your families!

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