And so it begins…
Life with kids is hectic. We, as parents, know this. We know our social calendars get booted aside as our dear ones start creating their own social networks. If you have children interested in well, anything, your nights and Saturday mornings will be full of driving from one activity to another while balancing multiple birthday parties.
It was easier when they are small and portable. They came with you to run errands, napping in the car seat (if you were lucky) or content to sit in a grocery cart with a half eaten cheese bun in one hand while you frantically threw things in the cart praying they did not have to go number two as the thought of abandoning your cart in a panic to find a washroom for your potty-training child made tears well in your eyes.
After you weather these and multiple other things, you breathe a sigh of relief as you children move out of toddlerhood into more independent little beings. No more diapers! No more diaper bags! Soon we will be able to downgrade the dreaded swag wag for a cool SUV because the stroller is in the process of being sold on Craigslist. They all sleep through the night (most of the time), and the oldest one is starting to take showers alone.
But it is all a sham. What no one tells you is that your social calendar downgrades even further. (If that is possible.) Your newfound free time is not spent elegantly sipping a glass of wine with your significant other. You are both still snoring on the couch trying to spend some quality time together exhausted beyond belief.
Because you have three children who have started the next stage of their development.
The participation stage.
What is the participation stage? It is the age when your children understand there are a plethora of activities available to them. Dance classes. Swimming lessons. Girl Guides. And all their friends are in different things and they want to go to all of them. Then add in the start of extracurricular activities from school. Cross country meets or choir performances. To even further complicate the issue, this doesn’t even take into account requested play dates or birthday party invitations. I have a calendar just with the kids activities or social activities on it.
What I am slowly starting to understand is that when you have one child in multiple activities there are a lot of benefits. You can ensure one parent is always available or if you can’t for some reason make it, finding another parent who lives close to you to carpool with is an easier task. You have no tag along children needing to be entertained. You can bring a book, your work or just choose to sit in your car and nap. But you have that choice.
When you have two children the participation stage is a tad trickier. But if you can encourage said children to join things together or very close by with staggered start times, it is still doable without too much angst.
With three or more children there is no escape. You live in whirlwind that does not stop. You are either taking children to activities while trying to throw goldfish packages in the backseats because someone is hungry or trying to desperately find a babysitter because your littlest one, exhausted from all day kindergarten, wants to go to bed by 7:00 pm. Your new Coach purse (that you splurged on to celebrate your newfound freedom), resembles a babysitter’s starting kit. Pads of colouring sheets and crayons in case someone needs to wait longer than ten minutes somewhere and not to mention the wrappers and crumbs at the bottom. You arrive home, put kids to bed and cringe at the thought you have to now make three lunches and go through three piles of agendas and paperwork to ensure nothing is missed so you sit, spaced out, in shock from what just transpired that day.
I had the pleasure of starting my kid’s activities this past week. There was a lot of preamble at the end of August as we finalized everything.
“Kids, you get to each pick two activities and that’s it.”
“I want musical theatre.”
“Great! Two checked off. Oh wait. You can’t be together this year. So Elizabeth you’re Thursdays 515 pm and Audrey you’re at 615 pm. What about Jacob. Hmmm..will deal with that later.”
“Mommy..I want to do tap dance this year.”
“Okay Audrey, you can do two activities as long as it fits into Saturday morning. I want everything on Saturday morning when Daddy is here to help me.”
“But mom!! My two friends are doing Girl Guides again this year. I realllyy wanted to do that too.”
“No Elizabeth. We talked about this. You’re in grade three now. You’ll have more homework so can only have one activity during the week at least for the fall until we know how you’re doing. Okay? Plus Girl Guides is on the same night as musical theatre.”
“But it’s not until 630 pm and I’m done at 615 pm! We have time to get me over there if Dad comes home early and stays with Audrey at her class.”
Big sigh. How to explain to an eight and a half year old as much as I would like her to do everything, I can’t be in two places at the same time and her dad doesn’t get home on time for weekday activities and I have to consider her younger brother and how much he can handle in one night? So I try a different approach.
“Elizabeth, you can’t do both musical theatre and girl guides on the same night. Pick one.”
Musical theatre wins out and off we go. Thankfully Jacob is content with his one activity on Saturday mornings with the promise that I’ll look into hockey for him in the winter after he turns four.
A few days before our crazy Thursday night I realize two things. One, I can’t take Jacob on the crazy after school activity ride. Poor kid is struggling with full day kindergarten and exhausted. I’ve never seen this kid rub his eyes so much once he’s home from school. So I contact a new babysitter I’ve interviewed and ask her to come for a few hours until Mr. L arrives home. Done. I’ll reassess if I should keep her or try to take Jacob with me after a couple of weeks.
Second, all of Elizabeth’s homework is due on Fridays. She has two dictations (one French and one English) and needs to hand in a French reading report each week. I’ll need to ensure she gets most of it done before Thursday night and spend a half hour with her (while she wolfs down take-out dinner) at some random coffee shop quizzing her while her sister is at class. This issue reaffirms the need for a babysitter even more so I can focus on Elizabeth and her homework.
We get through the Thursday night in not too bad of shape. It was nice to have dinner with just Audrey and then be able to focus on Elizabeth (even if we’re in a food court). Some fine-tuning is required with regard to homework as she still had to rush Friday morning to finish something, but we did it.
Saturdays are infinitely better. With two parents we can divide and conquer. I can take one to her dance class. Mr. L can take Jacob to his class and Elizabeth (who is supposed to be doing extra reading) is the tag along but being older she should be able to handle it the best.
We get to the dance studio on Saturday and find a good friend has signed up his two daughters for a jazz dance class. I can see Elizabeth’s mind swirling and it isn’t long before the question arises,
“Mom, can I take jazz since I’m here anyway?”
Another sigh but I ask her. “Will you promise when we get back home after you will still do your extra reading homework?”
She nods (although I know this will be an ongoing battle) and I go over to inquire if there is space in the class. Two spots left and a few hundred dollars later (and a realization that I need to increase our kid activity budget at some point) she is enrolled.
So my Thursday nights will be crazy but if I can schedule and budget in a sitter each week, manageable. Saturdays will be busy but with all kids occupied at the same time, when I’m not bouncing back and forth between two classroom windows to wave and smile at my two girls, maybe I’ll be able to sit for ten minutes and reflect upon weather it’s possible to clone oneself? I will accept the fact that this is only the beginning. Next week we add in three birthday parties over a two-day period. I’m still not one hundred percent sure how we’ll manage that but I think come Saturday night, we’ll have to plan a very lively comedy to watch to keep us both awake.
Let the crazy times begin…..