Monday, September 28, 2009


Pepper's last soccer game was Wednesday evening. The previous evening was Norah's last game. Both were, for some reason, the continuation of the spring soccer season.

That was it for the programmed activities for our kids for the foreseeable future. At least until the New Year, or until I scream "FUUUUCK YOU NEED TO BE SOMEONE ELSE'S PROBLEM FOR AN HOUR!", whichever comes first.

Last year's activities included:

Norah: Piano (half-hour lesson once a week, plus practice every day), Guitar (half-hour lesson once a week, plus practice every day), Dance (one-hour lesson once a week), Squash (one-hour lesson once a week), Soccer (one-hour practice once a week, plus two one-hour games per week at various locations around the city)

Pepper: Piano (half-hour lesson once a week, plus practice every day), Basketball (one-hour practice once a week, plus a one-hour games each week at various locations around the city), Dance (one-hour lesson once a week), Soccer (two one-hour games a week)

Stewie: Soccer (two one-hour games a week). For some reason (probably him NOT constantly badgering to join things), we didn't have him in much.

It was too much. We were constantly going. We started using Google calendar because between Max and me and one car, we had to strategize and analyze the logistics of every single evening. Including weekends. The kids – separately – said "Mom, we're too busy".

How did we get into this? We're not "those people". We always swore we wouldn't over-program our kids. We mock "those people". But there's just so much that's interesting. So much that we feel they should learn. Dance for flexibility and coordination. Basketball / Soccer for team-building and discipline. Music for brain-wiring and math skillz. And they asked for it all, were enthusiastic (at the beginning) for everything.

But while they liked dancing, they didn't love it. The team sports were fun, but none of them (so far) have the bloodlust I can see in other players the same age (as soccer players, they'll make great cellists). Maybe they will later, but I'm not willing to tear at their little souls to get it now.

Music is even more difficult to ditch, as both the girls have actually been advancing fairly rapidly. Plus, we bought a whole mother-fucking expensive piano. Norah, after (Guitar Hero induced) begging to take guitar lessons all summer last year, got exceedingly belligerent and ornery (I mean more than normal) after only about a month. We forced her to stick out the entire year (until June – acquiring Guitar Hero at Christmas may or may not have bought a little time). She was (and is) actually amazing. Her teacher – a local rock-star himself – commented on her skill and potential (I think he was also secretly a little jazzed to have a nine-year-old girl asking him to teach her Metallica's "One" and AC/DC's "Thunderstruck")

So, we quit. Everything. This fall and winter we are going to do some one-off family stuff. Skating. Movies. Skiing (hey, we may be in the flattest area in the FREAKING WORLD, but we've got a lump or two suitable for kids. And me. And there's always cross-country) And looking forward to some unprogrammed time. There is much to do to regain control (assuming it's "regain" and not just "gain", but either way). I hope to be able to document some of it here, but don't hold your breath. Cleaning up and gaining control of this cluster-fuck we generously call a blog is unfortunately not terribly high up on the list. But since I enjoy whining sharing here, look for continued, random brain-farts!

Paring down is only step one. I hope it works. What do you think?

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  1. I don't know if what you did constitutes "paring down" or more of a "scorched earth", but that's just semantics.

    We've always taken the approach that we'll try anything for one session, and if it works, great, if not, you learned it doesn't. The first time we tried dance, it lasted (positively) for three weeks. We slugged it out with a lot of tears until the end of the session (a total of three months) and quit. She went back for dance (at a different place, also a year older) later and LOVED it.

    We just won a month of karate for her, so we'll see how that plays out (she's been all keen because my nephew - who if you ask her walks on water - takes it).

    I think the important thing to remember is that we as parents have something to give and teach our kids; they don't need to be "in" everything, and can pick up some skills in other areas (example: if the music thing plays out they could join a local community band and learn teamwork and discipline. They also need to spend some time with us as parents to forge a decent bond. (Not that I'm saying your kids don't, KWIM?)

  2. My kids re still too young for lot of this but I can see it all happening to me. Right now, C does karate and loves it. Dance - at her age - is glorified dress-up that I have to pay for, so I don't see its necessity.

    She tried gymnastics and while she loved it - she gets the same body benefits from karate with the added respect/discpline/confidence I found lacking in gymnastics.

    If she comes to me and really wants to try something else, I'll let her try but we can't be those running-around-crazy-schedule people either. I'm ALREADY insanely busy and they're only 3 and 1.

  3. Thanks SciFi Dad. I do KWYM and I think that's what we're really trying to regain. We were beginning to lose the forest for the trees. I hope we haven't just scorched em! ;-) It's the intention to go back if they're really inspired by something.

  4. My kids get 2 each, for outside of school time stuff, so far it's bowling and CCRunning. I totally factor in cost of driving to and from before I say "no"

  5. what the EFF, harmz? are you purposely *trying* to make us all look bad?

    srsly. who has time for that shit? all that fucking around-ness would seriously intrude on my internet and tv time.

    one thing each, for my kids. until they are old enough to drive their own asses around, it's a limit of one.

  6. I say good on ya. We try to limit the girls to a maximum of two lessons per season, with summer off. It seems to be working thus far, not least of which because Rosebud's dad has been taking one of the lessons on himself (on Saturday mornings, when he always has her). We do swimming (as a non-negotiable Life Skill), but come January, wewill probably do something like musical theatre for Juniper, and perhaps karate or something for Rosebud.

    No more than two lessons seems reasonable.

  7. You listed all the activities, but you didn't say how many were concurrent... I think that for a school-aged kid, a limit of one or two scheduled activities is reasonable. And I think that at least one scheduled activity is a good thing --- depending on the situation, it teaches them about different social interactions, bodily movement, gets them physically active, teaches important life skills, teaches them perseverance, discipline, and the consequences of picking a stupid activity that you start to hate halfway through. :-)

    Right now, my girls are in Brownies/Guides - one night a week (both on the same night at the same location) plus a few activities through the winter, like camping weekend. My son has just started hockey for the first time - CAHA's "initiation program", it's a weekly hour of practice until December when they add a weekly game to the mix. They all picked this activity, but I did steer the boy towards hockey when he had to choose between hockey or Beavers. My rationale was a) you'll enjoy hockey more and for longer, and b) it's a life skill that is best learned earlier rather than later. Even now, he's way behind the guys that started when they were 4 or 5, which I figure is really too young to start hockey.

    And they're all in mandatory piano/voice lessons - all the same night at the same place, but practice is daily. If we were cutting back, I would be reluctant to cut the music lessons, since starting young opens up so many doors later in life. To be honest, they don't all enjoy it as much as I wish they did, but they're stuck until they reach a certain age (or level). If they don't continue into their teen years I won't mind, but I'll be satisfied that they had the opportunity, and that they've learned something beyond the very basics.

    Who's the guitar teacher? 25 years ago John Hannah was
    teaching at Academy Music, but I'd guess he's moved on by now. I hope.

  8. I know you told me all this in person, so I wasn't going to comment, but I'm doing it anyway!

    Yes, I think it's awesome that you're doing this! And you know why I'd feel that way. With only 1-2 nights free to be a kid (oh, not really because I still had to practice on free nights!), I was burnt out... AND I WAS ONLY 8YO!!!

    You rock as a mom for doing this for your kids. Serious. I'm not just saying that because you're one of my besties. :)