It’s about that time. When I glance around at friends with school-age children, I notice they are beginning to sport that war-torn look. Lazy days of summer by the pool with nary a routine are a distant memory. Kid’s activities have kicked into full gear with shuttling to and from lessons, practices, and games cranked into overtime mode. Drive-thrus replace family dinners. Homework is crammed in before bedtime. Weekends give the mirage of a respite but there’s always a tournament or game on the horizon — even on holiday breaks! How will parents survive this busy season?
Now that I’m on the other side reflecting back as an empty nester with a much-too-quiet household, I’m not going to give unwanted advice. But I do want to share a reality that is often missed when a child begs for dance lessons, travel basketball leagues, competitive cheerleading, or private horseback riding instruction. Every activity comes with a cost, and I’m not only talking about the dollar amount. When one child joins an activity or sport, it becomes a family commitment — requiring time, attention, and transportation (until teens can drive). With a day limited to twenty-four hours, saying “Yes” to something always means saying “No” to something else, and it’s often family time together that is squeezed out by jam-packed schedules.
For those parents who are single, it can be even more of a challenge. I know firsthand because I lived it. When my kids were growing up, I had to say “No” to travel sports and minimize activities outside of school. At times, it broke their hearts. But family dinners, watching cartoons in pajamas on Saturday mornings, and just having a break during the week were my priority and the limitation of being just one person. Looking back, I don’t have any regrets — both of my children found activities they loved and teams that were a good fit. Cross country was one of them and, in my opinion, is the greatest team school sport of all. It requires discipline, is great exercise, and generates incredible camaraderie and team spirit with everyone cheering each other on to their personal best. High school matches are even on Saturday mornings, so weeknights are less stressful and Sundays are free.
So next time your child asks to participate in an activity or two or three, it might be time for a family meeting. After all, it’s a commitment for your entire team.