Tuesday, May 03, 2011

 

When Seasons Collide

The Boy and The Girl are old enough now to play sports, but still too young to drive. (Right now we’re in baseball and softball season, respectively. Many of the games start at 5:00. 5:00! Don’t people work?) The end-of-semester event crunch at the college is in full swing, with the rubber chicken circuit becoming so active that some nights are double-booked. TW is increasingly involved with local politics, attending school board and town council meetings on a frequent basis as she fights the good fight for the schools. Even The Dog is becoming higher-maintenance of late, with multiple recent vet visits for various issues.

TW keeps a family calendar on the wall of the kitchen. Several days of this week are so full that she has had to draw arrows in the margins. We’re one step away from footnotes.

Meanwhile, the college has been dealing with unbloggable drama. I’ve been rushing home from putting out political fires to get changed and take one kid or the other to practice, writing blog posts on a netbook in a folding chair along the first base line.

Stop the madness!

Back in the day, I dimly recall, parents used to say to kids when they got home, “go outside and play.” I remember doing that, and I remember just walking over to a friend’s house on the spur of the moment and asking if so-and-so could come out and play. This was considered normal behavior at the time.

Somewhere between the 70’s and now, that stopped. And when all the local kids are involved in organized stuff, there’s nobody to go out and play with. Even if you individually opt out of the sports-and-activities gamut, you can’t escape its effects.

Maddening. And obviously unsustainable.

Wise and worldly readers, in the absence of a personal assistant, have you found a way to stay sane when seasons collide?

Comments:
Eventually, we had to coordinate everyone. Geeky Boy and Geeky Girl had to compromise on who could do what. This is a long way off for you, but school sports make life a bit easier. Practices are after school, end at five and it's often easier to arrange rides when needed. In the meantime, I find a glass of wine or two takes the edge off.
 
Much of the problem comes in when some of these sports are 2-3x a week (maybe two practices and one game or some variation of that). To me, that would count as the child participating in three activities, not one. Throw in the fact that each sport thinks that they are the family's top priority, and it's a huge issue.

My second grade daughter is not involved in those types of sports (thankfully) and I am hoping her two younger brothers stick to things like scouts and swimming. The schedules of soccer, softball and baseball leave my head spinning, especially in homes where both parents work. I agree with you--it's insanity, even if it weren't one of the busiest times for college employees.
 
Two solutions that we partially implement.
1) Put both children in the same sports. This works up to a points and halves the driving required! (It helps that we have two boys, so the soft/baseball dichotomy doesn't affect us)
2) Everyone in the family has their own Google calendar. My wife and I maintain the childrens' calendars, but all of the school events, sports events, scouting events, etc. go on there, along with the (few) things that we do ourselves. Key work events (travel, dinners, etc.) also make it on their. Then at the beginning of each month we "do the calendar" and make sure that all of our calendars are in sync and we have figured out how we will handle transport on the difficult nights (Thursday & Friday in our case).
 
This isn't the response you're looking for, but here it is anyway: We don't have kids.
 
My parents were lucky that no only are my sister and I very close in age but not at all athletically inclined. We tried out dance and karate but after a year gave it up. The majority of our time was spent at church and that kept us busy enough.

At this point, you have to make the choice. Is the insanity worth the kids playing sports (insert other activity)? Is your family time only when you are in the car together?

I hope I don't have athletic kids. I'll still probably say no to sports until school aged. I have yet to see how 3 year olds on a soccer field accomplishes anything.
 
We are in the midst of the same craziness, and it is crazy-making! One solution is to carpool with nearby teammates to the activities that are further away. The other thing we did (much less likely to work for others) is buy a house a block away from the Y where many of the activities take place. Our kids (in upper elementary) are old enough to walk there by themselves, and even to stay home alone when the rest of the family is at the Y. This helps a lot, but it's still a dance. Good luck!
 
Did it the old fashioned way, the wife and I lived on one income until the kids were out of middle school. This was back in the 80s, when living costs weren't so high, and gas prices had come back down to earth.

Today's economy sure makes that seem like a luxury. I guess that's why Congress imposed the marriage penalty tax on two-earner couples, it's where the money was.
 
Bicycles?
 
My wife and I met working for the Y and now coach a youth soccer team, and one thing we keep telling ourselves should we have children is that we will not fill all their time with scheduled activities. We have several kids on our team (8-9 year-olds) who play multiple sports each season and are exhausted come game day.

I can't imagine the stress of having to get two children to two different sports on top of my own schedule, but I actually think you're doing something great for your kids. There should definitely be more time made for spontaneous play, but a little scheduled play is a good thing.
 
It is possible for kids to do sports with whatever other kids are around after school. I know, what a concept!! In 12 years of a fairly athletic childhood (not saying which decades), my siblings and I did something that you would call "athletic" every single day. All day in the summer. And none of this was organized by adults or supervised by adults. My youngest brother actually joined Little League for a season, but said that it wasn't as much fun as sand lot baseball, which we played on a dead end street. I think today's parents would love the freedom, but would worry that their kids were not learning the skills that go with each sport to a degree that would make them competitive for teams in high school. Don't know what to do about that. I also think there is a fear of children playing unsupervised -- see the great website www.freerangekids.org. I do know that when I see parents sitting in the bleachers at the park on weeknights IN THE DARK so they can cheer on their kids, I cringe.
 
Yeah. I chose not to have kids.
 
Been happening a while:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-462091/How-children-lost-right-roam-generations.html

I found the map interesting.
 
We did a lot at the Y with overlapping schedules of swimming, gymnastics and the like. Neither girl was interested in team sports until high school. Now eldest is on the swim team - a pretty small obligation.

Our trade-off has been perpetual under-employment for my husband, who trailed me here for my t-t job and has worked in a variety of jobs since. Not what you or TW want to hear, but it ends up being the only way to work around special-needs youngest's and academically-ambitious eldest's schedules as well as my own university obligations.
 
Since my brother and I are close in age (1 year apart) we were always signed up for the same sport, same team until we were older. I got tired of "girls only" sports pretty quick and switched to other activities - but they were all after school, with busing. Things that went after - well we just got rides home with other people, or walked.

Try to remember this will pass. You're almost at the end of the crazy time, sport season only lasts so long, and even activism has its peaks and valleys.
 
Suppose you set a limit of two drives per week, per kid. That would exclude some options, certainly. But what would be left?
 
I agree with what some people said about having the kids do the same sport to take the edge off and google calendars to organize it all. I experienced everything from both parents working full time to mom working part-time and not at all and the time we were the most sane was when both parents were working and we hired an out of work teacher to pick us up from school and ferry us to everything. She helped with our homework and made dinner too. We had enough money to buy the stuff we wanted, my mom got help with the domestic stuff and we all were able to relax and socialize in the evenings. In your case, I think a teenager with a car could serve a similar role - even a couple nights a week would make a huge difference.

Not sure how much it cost (in my area, I'm guessing $20 per hour now - then, it would have been less).
 
You are the target audience for Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. If you haven't read it already, read it now. Skip the last chapter with the dialogues.
 
It's hectic and crazy-making, no question. But we found that kid sports are as much a social activity as an athletic one, and that goes for the parents, too. Sitting in the bleachers or on the soccer sidelines has offered me some precious opportunities for adult conversation. When sports become tryout-based, then the focus shifts and it becomes about performance and winning. That happens in baseball sooner (about age 10) than soccer, unless you opt for a select/travel team. School sports here are open to all comers through middle school here, but now that my oldest is in HS his opportunities are limited - he loves team sports but doesn't want to make them his entire focus for the duration of the season.

Careful scheduling, splitting up on overlapping games, finding someone that your kid can catch a ride home with if you have to leave mid-game or one parent is out of town - those were our survival strategies. We had 10 years of rec soccer across our two kids (8 years with both participating) and now that it's over, I actually miss it. I don't miss having something booked for every weekend, but I do miss the camaraderie, for me and for the kids.
 
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