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Just say no to your kids doing things
But maybe sometimes yes.
School and fall activities are back in session. A witch I know posted the following plea for commiseration and ideas strategizing what we say yes to (for the kids) and what we say no to (for us/the kids):
My kids are 6 and 8 now, and extracurriculars are LOOMING. We already do Girl Scouts -- with me as the Leader aaaugh; one kid has tutoring; I just signed them up for religious school (and narrowly avoided getting sucked into teaching); and they also want to take music lessons. And do dance again. And theater. And also gymnastics. And maybe try soccer again. AAAAAH! I want them to do things too, especially because they've missed out on so much in the past few years, but holy shit! I can feel all of this sucking time, energy, and money away. Also everything feels so FINAL, which I know it isn't actually. How do y'all prioritize and make decisions around this kind of thing? And what do you do when kids want to do *different* things?! Also I hate sports. And competition.
Below were some of the replies she got from other witches, and below that some other strategies and commiseration from witches I asked on Twitter. If you have clever strategies or just want to complain about this prison of your own making (it’s what we do!), drop a comment.
“I only allow two activities per kid at a time. I think that down time is so important for them and for me. I would offer them a curated list of shit you’ve already vetted, and encourage them to try the same things for your ease while they are so small. But if you can’t get them to agree, I would (internally, like in your private planning) determine what days YOU PERSONALLY are willing to schlep around. Like me personally? I hate night time shit late in the week. I learned this the hard way by letting one daughter do a 7pm dance class on Thursdays. Everyone hated it, not just me. Then be like, “‘Ok, here are the very limited options for the next few months. ALSO, the sessions for these things change all the time so this decision will only be binding for a few months and then you can revisit.’”
At our house, one non-negotiable is piano, and everyone does that every Saturday. So you can choose one other activity if you want to. My older daughter right now is doing the most amazing online dungeons and dragons class. My twins are about to start a ceramics class. So that’s two for each kid right now. I just know so many families who have sports and practice and various other shit every single day and my kids just really need time to decompress and have play dates and stuff, so I limit it. Also, with multiple kids, this shit adds up so fast!!! And I don’t want to drive all over the place all day, too, and contrary to popular belief, THE MOM’s PREFERENCES MATTER!”
“I'm figuring it out as I go but basically we are the bitch of the baseball schedule and we don't even fuck with the serious league. I have figured out swimming doesn't need to happen when it's nice out since they swim for fun. I'm making my son practice guitar every day, if even just for 5 minutes, which I hope like discourages him with fucking around with trying new things and finding out I'm going to hold him to it.”
“I did not do a ton when they were younger and don't regret it. Best activities were through our aftercare program at school - which means I did not need to take them to class or get them ready, it was at the school. It was great. I hate when mine are too over scheduled but try to keep things to one big activity and another smaller commitment one.”
“One pro tip from my mom's turn as Girl Scout leader: there IS a way to make a night in a hotel count as camping.”
“I tend to categorize activities. First priority are the non-negotiables, which have been religious school and (when they were younger) swim lessons. Then when you get into the chosen things like dance, definitely see where interests and schedules overlap whenever possible. Also think about which activities are seasonal/shorter-term sessions, and which are full-year commitments (which is what I hated about dance). Until I know it's something they enjoy and want to do, I try to stick with things that only last a certain number of weeks before we choose to continue or not. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am TERRIBLE at saying no to any extracurricular interest and end up twisting myself in pretzels to drive all over creation. So it's a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ situation. Though it has balanced out as they've gotten older and interests have crystallized.”
”We limit it to one or two activities per kid and we just actively don’t do team sports both because we as parents have no interest and because the schedules are so intense! My almost 5 yo is just starting kindergarten so we decided not to give her a second activity, esp not after school — this transition is big enough and yes to downtime!!! When I start to have FOMO about whether we’re doing enough, it helps to look back and realize doing even one activity per season adds up - the older kid has done stints in karate, swim, ballet, ceramics, choir, a theater class and rock climbing over the years. She’s now settling into being passionate about horses and climbing so we’ll focus there till she’s ready to drop one and try something else. Big fan of not specializing too early and also (controversial) of letting little kids quit mid-semester if it’s turned into a huge pain for everyone (mostly me).”
“We are now beholden to swim practices and each kid is allowed one extra activity on top of swim as the year goes one. They also both do Cub Scouts, which mostly takes place at the same time and place for both of them, and only once a month. When they were younger, we did only one activity at a time. Now swim is getting rather time intensive and with them being at different levels: I am at the dang pool almost every flipping day. But the non-practicing kid gets solo time at home to decompress, and that is key to survival. I refuse to do things that take place on weekends as a rule. We will do a swim meet or a campout, but I will not let them sign up for a weekend activity. Weekends are sacred and needed to unwind and just be. My kids also get up ungodly early, so they get a lot of free time before school. A LOT. That helps us survive.”
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Are you a witch who sent a child off to college in the last few years? I’m trying to see if I can pull together some practical advice for the future on getting your child there and set up, once they’ve been accepted at a school. One clever mom suggested, for instance, creating a separate email address for you and your kid for all the university communications that will start rolling in like a tidal wave. Email me or comment me if you have anything like that to share.