My sons don’t do a lot.
That is, they don’t do a lot of extra-curricular activities, at least not by today’s standards. Both boys play soccer and they seem to enjoy it. (I’m using the word “play” loosely here; James may end up being more instinctively athletic, but rest assured, no one in this house is going to college on a sports scholarship).
Both take piano lessons, because I like it. Seriously, that’s why. I always wanted to have learned a musical instrument, and never did. So when a second-hand piano became available to us for next to nothing, I grabbed it, ditched my dining room table and put it in that spot. They seem to like piano, particularly Daniel.
Aside from religious studies, that’s it, activity-wise. We generally eat dinner at home, and I don’t have to work out military-level scheduling for carpools. I’m not spending a fortune, either.
I’m sure there are mothers who look at a color-coded family calendar that’s packed with activities, with not one afternoon between Monday and Friday left fallow, and feel they’re doing the right thing. Or those who feel that even if it’s not ideal — no one has time for a real dinner and everyone’s doing their homework either in the minivan or while waiting for their sister’s hip-hip lesson to end — it’s what they have to do.
I am not one of those mothers. I like my time, and I like their time.
Except of course for the times it doesn’t work. Like when Daniel’s coach moved the regular practice to that evening in advance of the bad weather. We could do this: Piano is 3:45 to 4:45, and soccer is 5:30-7pm. My intentions were good, trying to get to both: Daniel gets more physical activity out of practice than out of the game itself, and it was actually a nice afternoon. Why not, I thought, grab the little guy off the bus at 3 pm, pack up the piano books, homework, water bottles, soccer equipment and a change of clothes, then pick up Daniel at school, go to the piano instructor’s house for piano (and homework), grab some pizza, then get to the soccer field, and let Daniel drill and scrimmage with his Pirates while James and I kick a ball around on the side?
It started okay; the pizza was a boy-pleasing idea (pizza — or any meal out — on a weekday? Are we on vacation?). But — and I should have anticipated this, given how devoted Daniel is to consuming large amounts of pizza — the meal was nowhere near digested by soccer time. Halfway into a scrimmage, he was clutching his stomach. Plus, the previously pleasant afternoon turned abruptly chilly. Rather than watch his brother or play around himself, James wanted to sit in the car for a while, and promptly shut the door on his fingers (major tears, no lasting injury, thanks). Homework got all confused somehow, and by the time we got home the whole pre-bed routine was at sixes and sevens.
In the lives of some modern mothers, many of whom I see weekly basis relating their drop-off and pick-up schedules that defy the space-time continuum (There’s no way to drop off your daughter at dance and be on a lacrosse field three towns away at the same time, even if you have the baddest-ass SUV on the planet) and lamenting how much fast food must be eaten to keep the schedule humming, my wacky Wednesday was nuthin’. Confusion with homework? A non-routine bedtime routine? Pshaw!
But I realized something: the slightly sick stomach and the bored/cold/injured younger brother weren’t really the problems. The problem was that I didn’t feel comfortable and relaxed with the craziness of the day. I feel better with just one thing per day, and with some days with nothing on the calendar and time to oversee homework and get dinner started, then letting them play by themselves while I get some bits and pieces of work done. That day, I was discombobulated and vaguely annoyed (misplaced my checkbook in there somewhere, too), and that rubbed off on everyone else.
It’s like I always say (apologies to the grammar police): “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Tell us: What does your calendar look like? Is there white space?
“If Momma Ain’t Happy…” could have been the title of writer, editor and Mean Mom Denise Schipani’s new book, but she went with “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Makes Good Kids Later,” which will be published this spring. Read more at Confessions of a Mean Mommy.