chapter five - "schedules"

Friday, May 11, 2012


Here we are, day five, Schedules, and my cohost is Erin of Such Small Steps.

Growing up, my sister and I had very few planned activities that we participated sports teams until high school, no gymnastics, no swim team. We did play piano, and occasionally we did ballet or theater or art, but our weekends were spent at home, curled up with books, at the library, at the park where we climbed trees and rollerskated, or in the backyard where we hunted for bugs and lizards or played hide and seek with neighborhood friends. In hindsight, I'm guessing this was a side effect of having divorced parents who both worked full-time- weekends were our only time together as a family to rest and relax. Although I'm sure we often whined "I'm bored," I know that we spent hours making our own entertainment, both at home and at our grandparents' homes where we spent weeks each summer.

Some time around middle school, my dad instituted Sunday as "family day": no plans with friends, no activities, no classes, just church in the morning, brunch or lunch after, and long afternoons and evenings spent at home hanging out, playing board games and talking. I hated it. I truly felt that I was being punished for something, that if I wasn't able to meet up with my girlfriends I would "miss everything." It's only now, as I raise my own little ones, that I understand the wisdom of this forced day of rest.

Consciously or unsconsciously, my husband and I have made the choice not to enroll our kids in many activities. We both work long hours during the week, and what we love most about the weekends is the sweet unpredictability found in a day with no plans. We can decide over a cup of coffee where our day may take us: to the zoo? Maybe on a little road trip? Or just something simple like a bike ride at the park followed by lunch. I am not opposed to nurturning my kids' interests, but I am resistant to losing that all of that time spent together, even if it is sometimes "ordinary or boring," to harried shuttling from place to place to place. Some of my favorite childhood memories stemmed from finding a creative way to deal with long, dull summer days, time spent putting on little plays or listening to my grandparents' old records, or setting up tents in our backyard. If every week of our summers had been filled up with tennis drills and language classes and ballet lessons, I am not sure that would have been the case. As with much of life, it's all about finding balance. As the book says, if we "sow the seeds of balanced childhoods what will develop, over time, are strong and whole, resilient, balanced individuals."

I love this chapter there are so many great nuggets. Erin I love the idea of "family day" I love how Payne gives the sentiment that your kids desire it and we should honor this time. Cherish it. This is so true but not common. Could you imagine if your boss said at 4:45 "you better pack up your family is waiting for you"?

Here are a few things from the book that really stuck with me...

The idea of organized sports. The desire to find a book like this began as I signed my 3 1/2 year old up for soccer. {what was I thinking... I did it... I filled out the paperwork... no one had a gun at my head... yet this is exactly opposite of how I thought I would raise my kids}. Any way I love what Payne says on the subject. He thinks organized sports are great when done at the oppropriate age. He talks about how kids are starting so young now that they get burnt out and are missing the best time to actually participate in them. " are quitting as they approach adolescence, just when the structure and rigors of organized sports and martial arts have so much to offer them in their quest for individuality, independence and maturity." I think one of the biggest struggles about this is the kids who have been playing club sports that dominate all the other kids. This is hard, you don't want to throw your kid on a team and watch him fail. What do you all think about this?

The GIFT of anticipation. I love this concept. "When you back off the treadmill loop of planned activities, you make room for pauses, you make time for anticipation and reflection."

I also love the importance Payne puts on boredom and how this time can allow your child to be totally engrossed in something. "It is something you can make space for and honor, but you can't control it." All we can do as parents is facilitate downtime for this to happen. This kind of goes into Mondays talk but I feel like it is so easy to insert TV into this downtime. There is nothing to do well, sure you can watch one show.

And one more thought, this pretty much sums it up...

"Balance is what we're after in simplifying our family's schedules. And once we cross our kids' names off the "Race of Childhood" sing-up form, time opens right up. Time for rest and creativity to balance activity; time for contemplation and stimulation, moments of calm in busy days, energies conserved and expended; time for free, unscheduled play, for ordinary days, for interests that deepen over time; time for boredom; and time for the joy and infinite passion of anticipation."

Erin thank you so much for co-hosting with me and for all your thoughtful words. ox!

*The sweet photo above are Erin's little boy and girl in their garden.


  1. this is one area that we have been extremely consistent in (unlike the last chapter :))- from the time that both kids were toddlers until now. years ago, as summer was approaching, i'd always get the question- what are you signing the kids up for this summer?? i'd always say, well- not much! i value the downtime that a calm, "boring" summer has to offer- in all of the ways that you both (and the author) express. i don't like the idea of being tied to tight/inflexible schedules- and how it robs us of precious TIME- on the weeknights, and the weekends.

    as for organized sports- i could not agree more with his viewpoint. there is so much pressure to develop "athletic-club-sports-level" children- especially with boys. jacob didn't begin soccer until he was 8 (we had him in t-ball/baseball when he was younger, but had never put him in soccer). it was clearly way too "late"- and the other kids and parents were so competitive (we saw this even in t-ball, at age *5*), that it was a pretty miserable experience. we kept him in for 2 years, until the skill gap- between he and the other kids was so wide, that he was teased by some of the other players, and even the parents would make comments or sighs during the game, if he did not perform to standard. nowadays, it would be very hard for them to "jump right into" a sport as an adolescent, but at the same time- i do not regret our decision of waiting, and not filling our calendars with organized sports- for either child.

    we're going to put him into martial arts this year, and although some would say that it's way too late- we feel that it's the perfect time to start.

    1. Here is the thing we (probably all) struggle with that is highlighted in this chapter- that thought that if you don't enroll your kids in soccer or t-ball or whatever as early as possible, they will get behind and will never get to play later. It's scary for parents to think you're already behind when your kids are 5! I tried soccer with Norah this past fall and we all hated it- she was too young, she didn't care, we would get frustrated if she preferred to daydream rather than kick to the goal (especially since we had to get her there for a weeknight practice and a Sat morning game). It was exhausting. I may try again if she has interest, but I'm so hesitant to head down the road of intensive sports- giving up our weekends forever to games and tournaments. Some people I know say kids can do just sports teams at school, not club sports, which is one way to balance it, I guess.

    2. Torrie... Thank you {again} for your perspective.

      This is one of my favorite stories about organized sports... So my sisters went to a boarding school in New Jersey. While the oldest was there. A young man from London {I think... somewhere in Europe} came to their school with the intention of playing soccer. While he was there he was encouraged to try Basketball, a sport he had never played and didn't even know the rules. Within a year of playing he was drafted for the NBA and opted to finish his education. I know this is really rare BUT is shows that we are not in control and you never know what may happen.

      I could sign H up for sports and he could be the star athlete until he throws out his arm at 10... that is what is happening!! Crazy!

      If I could type my wish out... it would be that our boys are surfers and I could sit on the beach with my guys on the weekends... there you have it I put it out into the universe... ;)

      Erin... I am hopeful that my kids can play in school... that is encouraging that you have heard that that works... that is more my style.
      PS. thank you again for such a great post and you are already commenting away... CO-HOST!! is on fire :)

    3. one more thought about organized sports.... I just watched Payne's 4 minute video on his website... and I feel like it is even more clear.... WHO CARES? are we raising our kids so they can get the biggest trophy or are we trying to raise GOOD HUMANS?

    4. oh WOW... first of all- he has a site?? second of all- that video says it all. i want to share this book with every parent i know.

      love that story alexis... so good to remember... you never know- and like you said- you never know in regards to the "star athlete" either! (and your surfing wish?? yes please. now the ocean is one "sport" that brings him pure joy- no CRAZY parents, no competition... just good ol' fashioned fun.

      erin~ i can SO relate to your soccer experience. your comment makes me realize how many of us bloggers are cut from the same cloth in regards to this- and so many other areas. wish we could all live closer to one another :).

      what happened to the days of a bunch of kids just getting together to play "ball"?? {sigh}

  2. Hello...just joining in the discussion at the end of the week! I've loved all of the insightful posts and comments...what an inspiring dialogue! It's wonderful to think that there are so many of us who are like-minded in wanting to raise this next generation in a simple way, no?!

    This particular chapter really resonated with me and I, thankfully, read the book at a perfect time. My son is 2 1/2 and this chapter is fully responsible for preventing us from enrolling him in soccer, French summer camp, and other various activities. It's so easy to fall in the trap of thinking that if we are not doing all of these extracurricular things, then we are somehow doing a disservice to our children. I love how Payne reassures us that justbthe opposite is true!

    We are looking forward to a our first full Pacific Northwest summer a nd plan to full it with unscheduled time to just "be the 3 of us.". Camping trips, outdoor movies, gardening, playing in the dirt, bug hunting, and watching the clouds form pictures in the sky...

    1. This is a great point- the more people on board with giving our kids balance and some down time, the better for us all. It is easy to get caught up in the "competition mindset" as a parent- if other kids are all fluent in languages by 6, how will your kid fare if they've spent time drawing instead of doing flashcards? But I think it is important to think about.

    2. THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      This was totally my intention was for us to find support in feeling that it is okay if your child doesn't know 3 languages and/or can hold his breath across the length of the pool at 2... This is the silly pressures that keep us mama's up at night. It is our job to protect these sweet children and foster their childhood. I am a firm believer that if you are worried about our future you better focus on it... right?

      I too am excited about summer... I mean honestly there are moments that I have brief panic attacks but mostly I am excited to surrender and just BE with my boys. This conversation is so inspiring and is giving me the strength to be a better parent. Like Haydee said on her blog last week sometimes.... "it takes a {virtual} village" ;)

    3. ME TOO!!!!!!!!!!!! (cannot express enough!!!) i literally sat down w/ a group of gals for coffee (invited by someone i didn't know very well, which sounds strange, but anyways...), and the entire time, they discussed flashcards, extra-curricular study programs, laptops being distributed very early on (as if it was a GOOD thing!)... i felt out of place and suffocated during the entire conversation. just goes to show that "sports" isn't the only generator of parental competition.

      thinking we need to do a follow-up discussion on "how to deal with neurotic parents" ;).

  3. You know what I think is interesting is the pressure that other moms place on other moms to do organized activities. I'm embarrassed to say this but I have signed Sutton up for activities that I know she/we would fail at because I thought that is what my friends are doing so I should be doing it too. That is awful! I pulled my head out of the sand when I put Sutton in piano lessons and we were both in tears one night. The only activity she does now is gymnastics and it is so low key, if we miss a day because we need a day of rest in our jammies it's fine. There is no pressure to perform and it's all fun. I don't enjoy being overly scheduled with one time planned activities either. My standard is usually to fly by the seat of my pants (easier for me to do because I have one child and she's five now). I want to want to be doing what I'm doing, if that makes sense.

    1. YES!! I have definitely done that- Norah asks me to do what her friends do, and I hate to say no. But I try to remember, every family is individual in terms of what they enjoy, what works for them, what they grew up doing, etc. and one size can't possibly fit all.

    2. makes TOTAL sense :). "pressure that other moms place on other moms"... so very true. {not to mention- the pressure that family members place...}. it's as if they need to feel more justified by their own choices/actions by pressuring you to do the same?! we have friends who literally don't put their kids in anything... and to us- it's OKAY!!! (it's totally up to them, and i'd never think to pressure- or even advise them otherwise!)

  4. Erin: Ha, I remember feeling like I was "missing everything" too when I had to stay home and do family stuff. Curious, you mentioned going to Church when you were younger. Did that stay with you? I ask because we try to establish a spiritual foundation for our family, especially the kids. I also love that you're not putting too much emphasis on organized sports right now too.

    Alexis: We did the same thing. We enrolled Penelope in AYSO soccer at three/almost four. Seemed like a fun idea (for us) at the time, but while she seemed to enjoy it, it was taking away from some "boredom" during the week with practices during the week and games on the weekends. We didn't enroll her again and don't plan to for a while. I with doing sports at an appropriate age.

    As for how to deal with finally putting your kids in sports with semi-professionals ... it reminded of that story that was going around about parents actually holding their kids back in school so that they could be more physically advanced for sports career opportunities as they reached college age. No lie. Not sure what I'd do about the other kids being more practiced. Maybe remind our kiddos that they can outdo any of those kids in a game of chess? Because they will you know:)

    Love your summary! It's all so true. I personally can't wait to enforce tremendous "boredom" this coming summer with the kids!

    1. Haydee,
      religion is a bit complicated for me- my husband is Jewish and it is important to him that we raise our kids Jewish as well so we will. I grew up in a VERY liberal awesome church (gay minister, homeless shelter in the basement, world focus) so for me, church was more about a great community of people with a spiritual bent. So anyway, our kids will start Hebrew Sunday school at age 6 and we will do the whole nine yards, but personally at home we focus more on the other side to that which is tolerance, family time, community service, kindness and traditions and rituals.

    2. haydee- can't express enough how happy this particular discussion is making me. we are literally on an island of our own regarding the majority of parents w/in our community when it comes to sports. your comment about chess? YEEEEP =).

  5. Ah, the organized sports and activities conundrum. Here is another area where I never envisioned myself as a soccer mom. Enrolling my kids in organized sports (outside of school) was never even on my radar. (I never did it as a kid.) But, as friends and family started down this path, there I followed. My son played AYSO this past fall. In fact, he missed the age deadline so my husband volunteered to coach so my son could play! I'm sure you can imagine how much time was taken away from down/family/bored time. Plus, we already have him signed up for next fall. Hmmm....
    Weekly camps for the summer months are pretty intense around here. I'm actually approached as early as April to see what camps my son is enrolled in for the summer. When I reply that I haven't signed him up for anything (and probably won't), I feel like a loser. Until now. Thanks to this conversation I really feel like it's ok for me not to get caught up in the race. A handful of beach days and a sprinkler in the backyard is really enough. ;)
    PS~I realize some families need these camps because both parents work and don't have outside help, especially during the summer months. But, I think if the camps are used so kids don't get bored, well I think we can now all agree "boredom is a gift."
    Thank you for another great conversation!

    1. i've already said it above, but feel the need to say just one more time... ;) I can relate entirely... i didn't as a kid either, but so easy to follow that "expected" path...

  6. Theresa, I should probably clarify- I am not opposed to camp- my kids will definitely do daycamp each summer since I work, as I did growing up, which was totally fine. I hope to do as my parents did and mix that up with a few weeks with each set of grandparents, a week of sleepaway camp, and days off for me here and there to take them to the beach, camping, running through sprinklers in our yard. I was speaking more to intensive camps (often sports-related) that younger and younger kids attend as a way to "get ahead" which I think puts a lot of pressure on them. The occasional special camps like zoo camp, or science camp, I think are really wonderful.
    I'd also like to mention one more thing he speaks to which is that parents are not "the entertainment"- there seems to be a prevalence among upper middle class parents to have to make each summer week better than the next, to essentially "top" the last- this week surf camp, the next week circus camp, etc. I think we're setting up our kids to a life of entitlement. During the weeks I spent w/grandparents each summer, some days we had plans and some we didn't. There was plenty of time I was just on my own to create paper dolls or go ride my bike (or watch soaps with my grandma!) There wasn't an expectation that she had to come up with a million amazing things for me to do or else.

  7. I didn't comment on yesterdays post so I am mixing in a bit of rhythm here too, since to me, rhythm is that peaceful partner of schedule. My childhood had a rhythm, I can viscerally remember it and it is important for me to give that to my children too. Our Friday night movies, Sunday morning pancakes, weekend family hikes, "the good things" roundabout at the table each night, that's all rhythm. As far as our weekly "schedule" goes, the girls currently have preschool three days a week, so we have been lucky enough to have a lot of unscheduled open time. Over the years, I have made the choice to enroll the girls, mainly my older one, in different classes. An hour of ballet on Tuesdays, let's try gymnastics this session on Thursdays, soccer in the fall, etc... Overall, this has been a positive experience. (Erin, I agree that soccer was a lot) Anyway, I feel like this is where it all comes back to rhythm. The girls know when we need to drop an activity (either by telling me, resisting it or being cranky) and I know when our schedule has become too much. At that point, we pull back and hang out more. But this fall, our carefree schedule is going to change. Sienna will be starting Kindergarten in a Spanish immersion program. Choosing a school that felt right was a big decision and as Kindergarten approaches I have been getting a bit anxious about the language (will she thrive) but more anxious about her being in school five days a week because I know that is going to be a big change for her and a huge shift in our rhythm as a family. Everyday school leaves a lot less time for unscheduled, creative play. When the time comes, I guess we will figure out a new balance that works for all of us. I would love any tips about the shift from a few days a week preschool to full time elementary school. It seems like such a big change.

    In terms of the "competitive mindset" that a few people mentioned, I know it is hard not to look at what choices our peers are making and measure ourselves against that. We all do it. But on the heels of the current Time magazine cover, "Are You Mom Enough," (I am deeply sadden by this, but sadly not surprised) I think we should be reminded that we as women, need to judge and compare ourselves less and respect each others choices more. From the outside, our choice to school Sienna in a language immersion school may look one way, but our decision comes from our desire to carry on my father's Spanish lineage (he passed away a few months ago) and give our girls the gift of language and culture that has been in my family for generations. We never really know what is behind a family's decisions in raising their kids and what works for them at a point in time. I feel very lucky to have a like-minded community in life and online where we can discuss thought provoking topics like this. Thank you Erin and Alexis!

    1. Karina, you are dead on- there is a rhythm and I think adults know as well as kids when that rhythm is off and there is a need to say no or do less. I think you guys do a great job balancing art, playing at home, school and more planned-out classes. In terms of going to five days of school, that is what my kids have done the past few years, and it does change things- the weekends become more important, the bedtime moves back a bit to accomodate more family time where it exists. I think there will be an adjustment period where you all figure out how the daily routine will go and then how you will spend your weekend time- some planned, some downtime together.

      And your point about comparison is right, of course- just as we never know what goes on in a marriage, we don't know the hows and whys of people making child-rearing decisions. I was talking to J about this today- even he and I were raised differently and have things we want or don't want for our own kids. Comparison is the thief of joy, right? (or whatever that quote is :))

  8. There was a time when I thought we were doing a disservice to our son as we hadn't signed him up for any sports. We did soccer when he was 4 - didn't take it too seriously although so many other parents did! But seasons and seasons went by and we didn't try anything else. Meanwhile friends and family were out every single evening at hockey practice, soccer, football and I felt horrible. I just went "phew!" when I read this chapter! My father who played hockey as a boy and still does, just laughs at the parents who are purchasing $400 sticks for their 7 years olds. It is ridiculous.
    We just started soccer again but this time it is with a neighbourhood group. As we recently moved, it was really an opportunity to meet other kids and parents in the neighbourhood. It has been perfect. Really, it is just a bunch of kids and moms and dads running around a park and this makes me happy. But I'm preparing myself for the judgement I may get from my in-laws who will not be impressed. Again, I will find myself thinking about this book and it will give me the confidence to stick with what I feel is best for OUR family!
    Thanks Alexis for this whole conversation you started and all your wonderful co-hosts for their contributions!

  9. my four kids are grown up now but back when they were in grade school i would regularly schedule a mental health day for all of us. i had some flexibility with my own work schedule and would plan a day on the couch, eating chips and ice cream, watching movies in pyjamas. i was always amazed at how quiet the kids were on those days, enjoying the time off and each other. i attempted to book a rainy day if the weather was cooperating so i could appease my own guilt about couch time.

    i must point out that none of my children were being paid to go to school nor were they working on a PHD. a day missed was neither here nor there.

  10. Great idea kids should be always in many activities and they look adorable together :)

    Cathy Vargas
    Vintage Girls


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Fern and Feather All rights reserved © Design via Blog Milk