Often, when people find out I have six children, the first question they ask is, “How do you do it?!” Most parents know how busy life can be with two children, so the thought of managing six children’s activities and schedules feels overwhelming.
I get that. Sometimes it does feel like I’m treading water in the middle of the ocean with waves coming at me and sharks teeming in the not-so-far distance. But I’m learning as I go how to avoid that overwhelming, I’mgoingtodrown! feeling.
It’s almost August. Time to register for fall sports and activities. Time to strategically plan who is doing what this fall. Because I have six children, I can’t just sign everyone up for everything. At the same time, I don’t want to just say NO to everyone about everything. So how do I decide what to say YES to? Well, I don’t claim to know what works for your family (because your family is different than mine), but here is what is working for me right now.
First, I consider each of my children and his or her strengths and interests and needs.
Lauren is a good athlete. She loves soccer and does better when she is busy than when she has a lot of unstructured time on her hands.
Rachel loves music. She is a gifted singer; she loves theater; and she wants to learn to play the guitar.
Caleb has always loved to climb and flip and fall and has discovered diving, which he seems naturally gifted for.
Silas started dribbling a soccer ball when he was two. He is driven on the soccer field with a real passion to play. And because of his Tourette’s and attention issues, he does well when he has an athletic outlet for his energy, and he sleeps better when he is playing sports.
Jackson is not naturally competitive or driven by sports; he can take them or leave them. But he did beg to join Boy Scouts last year and has already been talking about becoming an Eagle Scout.
Griffin is mildly interested in sports, but he doesn’t seem to feel strongly about any one sport. He does love to ham it up at home and has mentioned he may like to sing or act one day.
So after I consider their natural talents and strengths and interests, I look at the opportunities in front of us. Then I consider what is physically possible to manage. Notice how often I used the word love in the above paragraphs. If they don’t LOVE to do it, I’m going to need a VERY compelling reason to put it on my schedule.
Lauren and Silas have the opportunity to play on traveling soccer teams this fall. Because they both are strong soccer players with a passion and drive to play and because they both do much better when they are playing sports, we have decided travel soccer is a smart investment for them. Managing weekends with two kids playing on travel soccer teams will be a challenge, but it’s not impossible — especially with carpool friends. So travel soccer is a YES.
Because our Saturdays will be divided between these two traveling soccer teams and because Jackson and Griffin are not passionate about soccer, we decided fall rec league soccer will be a NO. When I prioritize based on my children’s strengths and passionate interests, I can eliminate extra stuff in the schedule with no guilt. Soccer for the two little guys would just be extra stuff in the schedule. And ain’t nobody got time for that this fall.
But Jackson does love Boy Scouts. And Boy Scouts requires only one Sunday afternoon and one Tuesday evening a month from us. That’s do-able; it’s a YES. But, I’ll be honest — some families are really Scout families. They get totally into it and do every outing and activity as a family. And that is great. For them. But that is not us. So I have to head into the scouting year by giving Jackson realistic expectations about what Boy Scouts looks like for OUR family and then refuse to feel guilty that I’m not at the meetings wearing a a kerchief around my neck!
Caleb has been taking diving lessons twice a week. He LOVES diving. You know when you see your kid do something and you think, YES! This is HIM! ? Well, that is Caleb and diving. He is focused and determined and he practices the same dive over and over and over again, never getting bored or frustrated. He listens to his coach and makes minor adjustments each time. I can see it building his character — like his character is growing right in front of my eyes every time I watch a practice. Diving has inspired him to set goals – short-term and long-term. So this is obviously worth the time and money we invest in it. Diving is a YES and stays on the schedule.
Rachel wants to learn to play the guitar, so we’re working on making that happen for her. We can work those lessons around everything else in the schedule. She’ll be involved in choir at school (which is great because it requires very little time outside of school). She will probably try out for some plays at school, which we can figure out as we go along. I am looking into community theater opportunities for her and Griffin, and we can make a final decision after we learn more — whether that is something we have the time or money for now or not.
Last year, our boys did AWANA at a local church. I have a love-hate relationship with AWANA. I do love encouraging my kids to memorize scripture. I don’t love making a contest out of it. I don’t love the emphasis on performance, spewing out verses with no real emphasis on allowing those verses to seep into them and change them from the inside-out. I also don’t love that every kid is in a different book, memorizing different things. Honestly, it becomes a lot of work for me and practicing verses with them just becomes another item on an already full to-do list. I also do not love that it costs a fortune to register them for AWANA and buy their shirts and vests (which just seems silly) and buy their books. Last year, two of my boys lost their books. And I promise you – a couple days after we finally relented and bought them new books, the old books turned up again! Last year, we decided to let them go to AWANA but not spend a lot of time or pressure memorizing verses – figuring something was better than nothing. But I am a rule-follower and recovering performance-motivated girl. So it was hard for me each week knowing my kids were not reciting a bunch of verses, finishing books, earning awards. I felt judged. But that may have been all in my own head.
So I’m not sure we’ll do AWANA this year. I’m not sure the benefit outweighs the stress and expense and later bedtime on Wednesdays for our family.
My three older kids will do youth group at our church. That is top priority for Sunday afternoons/evenings. I highly value the influence and impact the youth leaders have on my kids. I think it’s important that my children have other adults speaking truth into their lives and loving them and encouraging them and praying for them. The real friendships they form in youth group are also very important. So the time spent doing youth group is definitely a wise investment for us.
After we prioritize based on our values and each child’s strengths and interests, it looks like we’ll have a full but manageable schedule for the fall. It certainly will require some sacrifices of our time and money, and it will require some teamwork with other parents at times. But we’ve eliminated the fluff activities, the busyness for the sake of busyness. We have specifically chosen only what we think is best for each child in building and developing talents and character. And now, we’ll just make it work.
Our schedule is intentional; we know we are managing the calendar, it is not managing us. So even on the crazy-busy days when it feels like all I do is drop off and pick up kids, I can know that each dot on the calendar is purposeful and planned and valuable.
How do you decide what activities to say YES to? How do you manage your children’s schedules?