Parents of larger families often get the wide-eyed “how do you do it?” question. My usual answer is that zero to one is the lifestyle change. Everything else is just more juggling.
Of late, however, in dealing with the children’s schedules, I’ve been considering a different metaphor: Tetris.
In this beloved video game, various shapes — all composed of four blocks — fall from the sky. You turn the shapes and move them to fit them together. If you find the right spot and create a full row, the row disappears. If not, the pieces stack up and when they reach the ceiling — game over.
Anyway, this week I’ve been playing what feels like Tetris with my children’s activity logistics. Theoretically, we should be able to set activities on certain days and then just follow the schedule. But in practice, things shift week to week, necessitating a new round of the game.
For instance, in any given week, we aim to get the 12-year-old and 10-year-old to swim practice twice. The 8-year-old goes once. The 8-year-old goes to karate twice; the 5-year-old goes once or twice, depending on how things are going. The 12-year-old has an online tutoring session. The 8- and 10-year-old have an (in home) music lesson. There is early morning choir for the 12-year-old twice a week and the 10-year-old has a morning Reading Olympics practice. I sing in my church’s choir, which meets once during the week and then on Sunday mornings.
These things generally occur at certain times. However, the 12-year-old is also in his school musical, with after-school practices that run to 4:15 or 5:15 p.m., and happen (usually) 1-3 times per week, on different days each week. This week we have the Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby, which requires checking in our cars on Friday evening in anticipation of the Saturday morning event. Both of these mean moving activities from their default times to other times.
The good news is that many of our activities do have other time options. Karate meets most days of the week; you choose which ones to go to. Same with swim. This makes Tetris (turn the piece by choosing Thursday instead of Tuesday!) possible. I spent some time this weekend creating what I have to say is a pretty pro-level round of Activity Tetris for this week, moving pieces such that everyone gets to go to their things — well, most of their things; it was not possible to get the 10-year-old to swim twice within the game’s parameters — with the bulk of the activities happening on days we have multiple drivers.
Of course, Activity Tetris does take time and mental effort. But I’ve decided it’s kind of fun when I do see it as a game like Tetris. Because it’s really not a big deal if someone doesn’t make it to swim practice some night (the Tetris pieces stack up). And I can celebrate those rows that zip away as everyone — including me — gets where we need to go.
Is your household playing Activity Tetris?
Photo: My rendition of the Tetris shapes…