This was us: 3 kids, 6 after school activities a week.
Six different directions, lots of scattered tea times. Soccer boots. Tee ball mitts. Gymnastics leggings. Swimming goggles. Complex logistics. Frazzled parents. Tired kids. And a frantic sense of “are we having fun yet?” Surely we must be? Look at all the stuff we do! Look at how busy we are!
And then I remember thinking one day, in amongst all the busyness ‘if only we had more time.’ And I stopped. More time for what? We already did so many things, what more could we possibly need time for? I realised that in doing so many after school activities, maybe we didn’t have time for what mattered the most.
So we made a bold decision. An experiment. We said adios afterafterafter school activities. And what we found was time. Time for tea together. Not a rushed series of teas scoffed on the way to somewhere, but a sit-down-have-a-chat tea.
Time to relax, rest and recharge without the rushing and routine. Time for ourselves. I am starting to remember what my hubby looks like, not as a fellow child taxi service, but as the fella and father I love.
Time for spontaneity. For not knowing what the afternoon will bring until we get there. And time to just be. Our kids don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. They have time to be themselves.
Were we worried about what they were missing out on? Well we are certainly not missing the rush, the routine or the raffle tickets. What I see instead is my kids getting to know what they are interested in and passionate about. And the physical activity of playing outside. The sportsmanship of playing board games. Balance learnt from bike riding and skateboarding. The coordination of kicking a ball in the backyard. Risk taking in climbing trees (and problem solving when they need to get down again!). Social skills from playing with friends. Concentration from puzzles and reading. Art in the form of drawing and painting. Creativity in cubby house building and imaginative play. Teamwork in impromptu games.
Without after school activities, the kids can do whatever they feel like whenever they feel like doing it. Afternoons stretch away in front of them. No, they are not entertained, but they are learning to entertain themselves.
I know our decision wouldn’t be right for everyone. And that there are many benefits to after school activities. But it’s the right decision for us. Our family has taken a break from after school activities and we are all so much happier.