Sunday, December 08, 2013


The ice came and conquered this weekend's schedule.

Almost every moment this weekend was filled, and every single activity was cancelled due to weather.  I am glad of that.  From Friday to Sunday we had co-op, drama rehearsal, Christmas party, an outing to a play, cotillion, church, orchestra performance, and a Messiah sing.  (We were also given opportunity to attend/work at least three more events that we refused.) The ice annihilated those plans in one quiet night, and we gratefully settled into a weekend at home.  (Okay, I settled gratefully.  The kids were disappointed but quickly got over it.)

This level of activity is ridiculous.

Why do I allow it?  Parents these days (myself especially) feel like kids need so many opportunities in order to be well-rounded. What should I do to safeguard our time?  Is this just the way it is with older kids?

 I cannot believe that a smile and shrug is the solution.

What is the limit?  How do you know when to say no?  How do you know *how* to say no?

My excuses:

1) We aren't as busy as others.  This is an insidious excuse.  It compares us with others and finds that we are further along in our relinquishing of activities.  Because we are closer to balance, we are okay.  But comparison is not how we are to make decisions.

2) We are at home so much of their education.  They need these activities to learn to interact in formal social situations/work together in groups/produce music, etc., that cannot be done alone.  This is legit, so the question becomes how *much* of this is needed?

3)  I get tired of being the only one instructing them.  I love having other teachers come alongside and encourage and admonish, adding their voices to mine.  I gain strength from this.

4)  They love people and get stir crazy at home.  You should see how they look forward to their time with friends.  They just love their friends so much.  And these are good kids.  I like the people they work and play with.  We should invite people over more.  Then we could stay home and the kids could still enjoy their people.

5) Kids need many opportunities in order to become well-rounded.  How much of this is true and how much is a lie of the ever-increasing competitive, measuring-stick-happy society we live in?  Two things-- this is easily carried to ridiculous extremes, as illustrated by this essay written by a bright and snarky high schooler.  This kid has our number.  Weak as we are, we need more young people willing to declare the emperor has no clothes.  The other thing is a quote from Charlotte Mason, which I have hanging on my wall, and which is not enough to keep me from sacrificing my children on the altar of busy-ness:

We are steadfast to the affinities we take hold of, till death do us part, or longer. And here let me say a word as to the 'advantages' (?) which London offers in the way of masters and special classes. I think it is most often the still pool which the angel comes down to trouble: a steady unruffled course of work without so-called advantages lends itself best to that 'troubling' of the angel––the striking upon us of what Coleridge calls 'the Captain Idea,' which initiates a tie of affinity. -- Volume 3, page 212
I look at my kids.  They will not have everything.  No matter what I do, they will not have everything.  What are the most important things?

6) I hate saying no to my kids.  I would rather they make right choices themselves.  I talk and talk, trying to lead them to no on their own.  This sounds good, but I mainly do this because I hate saying no.  And it does not always work.  And sometimes we need to bump up against a 'no' so we can get used to submitting to a superior when we disagree.

As I look at the graveyard of this weekend's opportunities, I still do not know which of them should have been refused.  Probably the orchestra performance, which was optional, and they had already performed once this week.  We could have skipped the Messiah sing, which only comes once per year.  I would hate to skip that.  Soul food, you know.  If I had said no to the Christmas party, I might have had a revolt on my hands.  Cotillion happens every month, but only once every month, and they love it.  Plus, they are learning etiquette and manners, the almost-forgotten grace of accepting the help of a gentleman at table and on the dance floor.  Church is a non-question-- of course we would never skip church.  The play outing was sister time for one of my girls and her oldest sister.  And the rehearsal was a requirement that only comes twice per month.  You can't skip rehearsals when you are in production.  We could have said no to the entire production, of course.  But it is only once every two weeks.  Feeding the drama monster with an activity once every two weeks... seems like a nice compromise.

And that is how we arrived at the activities.  It's so easy to reason these things out.  Sheesh.  I still have no answers.

Everything was cancelled this weekend.  The girls have slid, put together puzzles, played darts, renewed friendships in the neighborhood... also watched movies, pinned things on Pinterest, visited their friends online... and we had time for their father's birthday dinner, which had been squeezed out by the above activities.  That we had squeezed out their father's birthday is unforgivable really, but his work schedule has been so unpredictable that we weren't sure when he would be available anyway.  And this is the postmodern, fragmented life.  I want to fix it and make it whole.  I don't know how to do that.