Monday, April 22, 2013

Packed schedules

"My schedule is so busy, I'm beginning to feel like a businessman," said Primo yesterday.

"I know how you feel," I replied.

My kids have, and have always had, a far less packed schedule than their Park Slope peers, in terms of extra curriculars. This is mostly because they've both protested vehemently when I tried to get them "involved" in the normal things -- soccer or ballet or chess.

"I just like having time to myself to do nothing," Primo likes to tell me. And I agree, wholeheartedly. I've written plenty of articles for parenting magazines for which I've interviewed experts about all sorts of things and something all the experts seem to agree about is that Primo is right; kids need free time, time they are in charge of, to wind down, to day dream -- to do nothing, as my son so eloquently puts it.

But then, two things happened:

A. I realized that what Primo meant by "time to myself to do nothing" was actually "time to play video games." For Seconda, that translated into, "time to watch Netflix." Which is a horse of a different color.

B. I had a baby and needed some child care foe the big kids, and found that paying for after school classes was a cost-effective way to get this AND stop them from gorging themselves on video games.

So, for the time being, my kids are enrolled in a few after school classes, all of which sound like something you might read from the catalog of offerings at Pinocchio's Pleasure Island,

"Swim games!"

"Creative yoga!"


These are activities they've chosen incidentally, not ones I've forced on them. Well, to be honest, it was a blend of me forcing and them choosing, as in "Well you HAVE to choose SOMETHING so what will it be? Ballet or gymnastics? Swimming or soccer?"

They don't have classes every day and nothing on the weekends. Most of them are just for an hour, 90 minutes tops. I host playdates like I'm running a day care in my apartment. Which is to say, these kids have ample time to "wind down." They also have plenty of time to "do nothing" aka "feast on screen time."

Still, they lament their lack of free time. And really, ultimately, I don't blame them. Both the kids and I pine for that long-gone time where they could roam the streets on their own after school, playing stick ball or hopscotch or whatever the hell kids in Norman Rockwell paintings did -- I don't know because i had the world's biggest helicopter mom in bell bottoms. The kids long for it because because then they wouldn't have to follow instructions and be on someone else's time table, and I long for it because, well,  then I wouldn't have to pay for child care.

But for now, the kids will just have to accept the unbearable fate of learning to cartwheel and do the breast stroke. It's just their miserable lot.