Why this information? Besides it's interest factor, it made me start thinking this week as we prepare for back to school. Now don't shut down if you don't have children. The principles are valid for everyone. My main thrust of this is over scheduling. I think we, as a society need to start decluttering our schedules, put them on a diet or intentionally start unscheduling.
A large percentage of elementary school children in this country have upwards of 3 extra curricular activities per week. You may not think this is excessive. I am not here to say if it is or isn't. This is only to make you think, question and adjust if necessary. It's your call.
School 5 days a week, 3 extra activities, homework, family time (hopefully), spirituality, play dates, bathing, eating as a family, reading for pleasure, screen time, free play - unstructured by nature - time to be silly because you are a kid and that's what kids do and need to do. These are only some of the things that our children are expected to do each week, week in and week out. Never mind special events, sickness, unexpected occurrences. Some children actually eat their dinner in the car while being shuttled to and from various activities. I know people like this.
What is the motivation behind this mass scheduling of our young? I dare to say, one-upmanship in many cases aka peer pressure. You thought that was a thing of the past once you left high school? Alas, no.
The constant banter of other families, children and parents. Extolling the virtues and skills they are acquiring on a never ending round of stimulation. Fear of falling behind compared to the Joneses is the guilt culprit for many. Somehow being made to feel that your child will inevitably miss out on some skill, talent or knowledge that is for some reason not available later in life. Proving your worth as a parent is commonly measured by how busy your kid is.
I challenge you to step back, focus on objectivity for the sake of this exercise. Speak with your child, see what they really want to participate in as far as activities go. It's ok to say no. Having a night or weekend of unscheduled time is good for the soul and social development. It can be good to be bored - it engenders creativity. It allows for spontaneity.
If your child misses the boat as far as developing basic, necessary social skills by interacting with other children, older adults and family members (conversation is a commodity these days) it is very difficult and most likely impossible to make up for it as an adult. If, on the other hand they don't learn to ski or do gymnastics or paint right now they will definitely be able to explore those hobbies later in life as an adult.
This can and should also be applied to your personal schedule. It's ok to decline an invitation without justifying why. Did you hear that part? Without justifying why. Manners must still apply but saying no is definitely healthy sometimes. Let's be real, there are times I just want to stay home and watch Seinfeld reruns. This takes practice but is very rewarding and a sense of relief comes with the feeling of control you will experience over your own schedule. If you can't get the hang of it, pencil a date with yourself in on your calendar. An appointment with yourself - keep it. Try it and see.