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Last week, the A Child After 40 campaign was mentioned in Live Science (see below) for a feature on the parenting topic du jour—“over-scheduling” of children’s activities.

Not that the two are directly connected—I was invited to give my two-cents on the issue from the perspective of an older parent.

I originated from the BT (Before Technology) era—the cloistered world of the 1960’s and ‘70’s in which children’s imaginations thrived under the supreme domination of the mighty one-eyed babysitter, the Television.

I still remember our first TV set. It was encased in a wooden box and turned on and off by twisting a knob. A little white dot always lingered at the center of the screen when TV time as over.

The invention of the TV remote was still…well, remote.

Mass distribution of television sets in every living room of North America was in its heyday. Parents began to fear that the mesmerism of the medium would fry our young brains like battered calamari—a condition not unlike an electrical “Reefer Madness (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness).”

Looking back, I realize that there’s always some new fad to get het up about. I remember being freshly bedecked with my first pair of bell bottoms, thinking I was on the cutting edge of tween fashion.

That was until my father laughed at me and said: “Do you think those are new? Well, they’re not. Bell bottoms were invented in the ‘40’s!”

And he still had the old suit, vest and trousers to prove it.

So, here you have it. The terrors of “over-scheduling” of children’s activities are the latest “new” thing. And the sheer idiocy of it is compelling.

Being older, and suddenly transported into the world of parenthood, is like landing in a scene out of Back To The Future II (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Back_to_the_Future_Part_II), complete with airborne cars and jet-propelled hovering skate boards.

Only for us, it’s helicopter parents and technology-powered schedules for extracurricular activities.

We stand there, on the alien turf of way-too-much-for-kids-to-do, and ask ourselves: “When does the fun start?”

That’s right. FUN. F-U-N. Fun.

It actually took until Alex entered kindergarten for me to realize that my 80’s-born peer-mothers—you know, the ones in their 20’s and 30’s with all of the youthful energy—thought that having a day of rest per week was optional.

What happened in the 1980’s anyway? Were the kids of that generation drowning in a sea of inferiority that they had to compensate with their own offspring?

And what, exactly, is the message they’re sending to their kids about what it takes to make it in life?

In Live Science (http://www NULL.livescience NULL.com/13634-parent-expert-overscheduling-tips NULL.html), Stephen Goodman, Education Consultant and Admissions Strategist for colleges states: “Students erroneously pile on more activities because they believe that the more you do the better chance you have of getting into Harvard.  And that’s just simply not true.”

Goodman goes on to emphasize that the kids who focus on fewer skills, but get really good at them, are the ones to cut the admissions mustard for the best universities in town.

However, in a review of existing research, the University of Pittsburgh, Office of Child Development (http://www NULL.ocd NULL.pitt NULL.edu/Files/PDF/95 NULL.pdf), points out kids spend over twice as much time in front of the TV as they do in organized activities, such as sports, each week.

Of course, we’re only thinking “extracurricular” so far—if we go back to the main course, when do these kids get their homework done?

At our house, there’s a blistering 1.5 hours of kitchen-based academics per night, complete with a mommy-on-call, and burger flipping punctuated by lessons on long division.

Speaking of homework, the situation begs the question: Who is really suffering from over-scheduling—kids or parents?

I find myself in a modern era where mothers are expected actively volunteer in the classroom, act as educators at home, organize and implement comprehensive extracurricular activities, and manage a home.

If that’s not enough, we’re asked to bring in a part-time paycheck to help cover the costs.

Somewhere in the melee, common sense—the oldest panacea for the tangled webs of parenting we weave—must prevail.

If it’s painful, stop doing it. Find a balance where the needs of the child and the parent are respected. Happy moms and dads make happy kids!

Notes for this blog:

MOTHER’S DAY 2011: A CHILD AFTER 40

It’s a mother of an evolution–launching at www.flowerpowermom.com/a-child-after-40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/a-child-after-40).

A Child After 40 is the first campaign to empower women on the journey of motherhood after 40.  Watch the video. Join the community. Check out the Resources. Pay It Forward.  Video: http://www.youtube.com/user/flowerpowermoms (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/flowerpowermoms). Campaign Info page: www.flowerpowermom.com/a-child-after-40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/a-child-after-40). Join: http://www.achildafter40.com/community (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/community).

4 Responses to An Old Remedy For Over-Scheduling Kids

  1. pomomama (http://pomomama NULL.com) says:

    Today’s younger mothers are actually having to learn about scheduling me-time (it’s usually voiced as trips to the spa, etc).\Interesting research pieces on focusing one one skill rather than many reaping the rewards. As someone who has had to stay busy for the state of her mental health, i’m going to try this summer to live a simpler life with my wee guy and not over-schedule the both of us

  2. harriet Fancott (http://seetheorun NULL.com) says:

    I’m a big-time underscheduler and plan to keep it that way as long as I can. My kid is happiest in a field or at the playground.

  3. Cynthia Campbell (http://www NULL.bringinghomenaomi NULL.blogspot NULL.com) says:

    I am notoriously underscheduled for my family. My girls are learning how to play with the neighbor kids and finding out about the things that live in the trees and bushes around our house. They are spending time making tents in the house out of blankets and honing up on their cookie making skills. I did just sign them up for gymnastics on Sat. and I think I can make that committment. I’ve lived a life I called “beat the clock” and I never want to go back there again.

  4. [...] some—especially those on today’s over-scheduling kids treadmill—just waking up in the morning and facing the day can feel exhausting. Meanwhile, all [...]

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