Another round of the activity circus…

I love having 5 kids. The logistical details of life with 5 kids, however, are a bit…complex.

No individual child is over-scheduled (indeed, one has space to do something else in our “something musical, something physical” rubric…) But if 5 kids each have an average of 3 things apiece, that adds up to 15. That’s 15 sets of dates to keep track of, including one-off changes, often at least some driving, special parent meetings, etc.

It more or less works. On the other hand, I’ve been at something every night this week.

Monday I took the 8-year-old to karate (while two other kids had music lessons…and the 3-year-old had gone to gymnastics and then karate earlier…). I took a few minutes during the lesson to hang out in Barnes and Noble. They had a copy of Tranquility by Tuesday! Always fun to see. On Tuesday, I had my evening mapped out where I’d drive the 8-year-old to swim and take the 16-year-old to Starbucks during practice. Everyone else was home with my mother-in-law who’s been visiting (my husband was not home). I got to the swim place and noticed several other parents walking out of the building with their kids. Turns out the practice was moved to a time 35 minutes later. I guess this was on the calendar but I didn’t know there was a calendar (my husband handled the registration for swim and normally does the driving, but he was out of town so I guess didn’t look — and it seems like a lot of other parents didn’t either!).

So…I was willing to admit defeat, but the 8-year-old really wanted to swim. So it was over to Starbucks, then I dropped the 16-year-old back at home, and came back to the pool, where I sat in the hallway and wrote in my journal for a while. Not a terrible way to spend the evening, I guess. It just wound up being a later evening than I thought it would be.

Wednesday, fortunately, ended earlier than I thought it might. I picked up the 16-year-old at an after school practice for something (which had involved him taking a bus to a *different* school…), then came home and had a quick dinner with the 14-year-old, before taking off for a parent meeting at his school for an activity. To go to this meeting together, his alto sax lesson had to be moved to a different time earlier in the week. But fortunately we were only there for about 30 minutes, and then got to go home.

Tonight will involve swim (the normal time! I checked!) and robotics + fencing for the 14-year-old, meaning he needs to be picked up from school after robotics practice and then taken to fencing. We usually grab him dinner on the way. I’ll need to make sure the 16-year-old practices music for his Friday voice lesson before he and I go to choir together.

There is a bit of a 3-ring circus feeling around here. But there are certain ways I’ve made this feel more doable. I generally am not driving the 3-year-old around to everything. If we don’t have two parents home, we have someone else home (this can now be any of my older children — a big difference from a few years ago!). I also generally view time during kid activities as potential personal time. I watch some, but I don’t need to watch everything. Hence the journaling, Barnes and Noble time, etc.

I’ve also just accepted that there will be a lot of moving parts. I want my kids to do things, and I want to be able to say “yes” when they choose to pursue activities. My 8-year-old, for instance, told me he wants to get back into climbing, so we are adding rock climbing classes back into the schedule. I think it’s exciting that my older three kids have all pursued and gotten into select musical ensembles, and part of supporting that means coordinating private lessons so they can continue to improve.

So I’m just trying to enjoy the circus for now! And hoping not to drop too many balls while juggling…

6 thoughts on “Another round of the activity circus…

  1. I would actually love it if you cover this topic in a podcast. I actually feel overwhelmed and tired a lot because of so many moving parts. I don’t always find it possible to use the free time when my kids are at activities. My one son is in robotics, but they need parents to help work the competitions, so I’m always volunteering along with my husband. I would love for you to delve into this further on how to be more relaxed and have some downtime.

    1. I second this rec for a podcast topic! You’re a busy lady.How do meals work during these weeks (no judgement if there’s lots of pizza!). My kids are getting to an age where we have six evenings of activities/week some seasons, and I find myself craving time at home and to myself. I find parents are often expected to hang around. How do you politely remove yourself from the small talk with other parents? I’m aligned with your feelings of wanting involved kids. It’s just not my favorite way to spend my time, and I’ve started limiting activities.

      1. @Amanda – if you just drop the kid off then you aren’t seeing people to engage in small talk. You could limit it by dropping kid off and coming back 10 minutes before end – you’ll see people but won’t be around the whole time. As for meals, we look at the week and sort of set times based on when most people will be available. Weekday meals are pretty simple. Monday tends to be pasta, Tuesday is breakfast for dinner, Wednesday our home manager cooks something (often crock pot/dutch oven), Thursday is now make-your-own-pizza night and Friday we’ve often been going out. I think if the reason you’re not having a kid do an activity is because you don’t want to spend your time there, you can recognize that those are different matters. Maybe the kid can do the thing and you don’t have to spend your time there.

    2. @Susan – maybe we’ve mostly wound up with activities that don’t require parental volunteering? In my case it’s more about not sticking around to watch everything. I guess I just see that most parents watching are on their phones anyway? So it’s fine to leave and do something else…

      There are a lot of moving parts for everything, for sure. It’s more problematic when I set things and then something has to change – but we make it work.

  2. I listened to the episode on digital tools, and thought, “Y’all are making life much harder for yourselves by not using digital calendars as your kids get older.” This post reinforces that!

    When ours were in middle school, we created a google calendar for each kid (shared with the whole family and anyone else involved in logistics) and then taught/enforced the using of it.

    When the activity schedule comes home, everything gets entered. If you want people to be at your choir concert, you need to make sure that it’s on the calendar. If you need a ride to the debate bus, put it on the calendar for the time we need to leave. If the coach announces that swim practice time is changing, change the google calendar.

    Yes, it required quite a bit of up front work to get everyone on board. But it made everything much, much easier in all of the years that followed. It also taught the kids a lot of skills that they still use to manage their lives now that they are grown. I didn’t expect this, but all these years later we still regularly use the google calendars to make plans or coordinate communication!

    My thought during the episode is that, by not going digital, you are keeping yourself as the hub of knowledge and logistics. And while there will always be some element of that, it’s more time-consuming and inefficient than it needs to be. I get that your systems feel pretty easy for you, but they still do take time and mental bandwidth.

    Our kids used to get so aggravated when they asked a question and I’d say, “Check the google calendar,” or when something got missed and I said, “Was it on the google calendar?” They hated it at the time, but they truly do see the value now and a couple of them have even thanked me for it!

    1. I think it’s also a little of “both/and” – we have a shared Google calendar for our kids’ activities, school calendars, and the like that is shared among me, my husband, and our nanny. I still add things to my personal paper planner separately for the “writing things down helps me process/remember info” aspect of it, and we also have a paper calendar posted in our kitchen that our younger kids can reference, but this way, I’m not the ultimate keeper of the calendar. In this case, I think the hybrid approach can serve you well and reduce mental load for the paper planner devotees!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *