Family life

Different kids, different schedules

Susan Goldberg tries to manage two very different schedules for her sons.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Thunder Bay, Ont. writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

Rowan’s soccer practices have been cancelled for the past two weeks — something to do with the poor air quality at the indoor soccer field where he plays.

(Or, make that poorer air quality: after a couple of hours inside that place, I inevitably have a headache — it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of carbon dioxide circulating and recirculating through the building. There must be, given the hundreds of kids running around in there at any given time. But I digress.)

When we first heard the news that soccer was cancelled, indefinitely, I was dismayed. How else would my intensely active nine-year-old burn off steam, especially now that the weather has taken a turn for the freezing and outside play is that much harder to come by? How would we occupy the hours on the weekends without soccer to provide a structure to fill in the blanks? A lack of soccer meant extra time to fill, somehow, in the evenings and both weekend days. What would we do?

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I always shake my head when the topic of “the over-scheduled child” comes up. I never planned to have my kid be as busy as he is but, as it turns out, sometimes you don’t always get what you plan for. Whereas Isaac is much more content to just hang out at home, his brother likes to keep moving. Like me, my Type-A firstborn prefers to keep busy. He likes to know “the schedule”: “What are we doing today?” he’ll ask. “At what time? For how long?”

And so we have scheduled him (but not his brother). Highly.

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What this means is that since he was a preschooler, I’ve mentally divided weekends into quadrants: two mornings, two afternoons to fill. And I’ve generally worked on the assumption that it’s best to have at least two, preferably three, of those quadrants pre-planned and occupied in order to keep everyone happy. With soccer in the picture, three of four quadrants were automatically filled, which made our weekends somewhat rigid, if easy to plan. Yes, Rachel and I spend an awful lot of time driving back and forth to soccer. And yes, sometimes it’s frustrating to have weekend activities limited by a child’s team schedule. But overall, it seemed like a fair trade-off, if the upshot was a happier, busier, well-exercised kid.

But I have to say, the past couple of weeks have been pretty lovely. I didn’t miss the rushed dinners and carpooling that come with weekly practice, and I don’t think anyone else in the house did, either. It was kind of nice just to have everyone come home, and then stay home, at the end of the day. It was lovely to wake up on a weekend morning and not have to be anywhere by nine or 10 a.m. We filled some Sunday mornings with brunches with friends. We hung out in pajamas. We took the kids swimming — always worth it, even on the days where the very last thing the world I feel like doing is venturing out in -30° weather to head to the public swimming pool. Life was more relaxed.

Soccer starts up again this week, and I know that Rowan is happy about it. And good for him — he benefits from the exercise, the camaraderie, the chance to blow off steam. That said, I’m happy to know that maybe we don’t need to be quite as rigorously scheduled as we once were. Old habits die hard, so I’m not sure how long it will take me to stop thinking of my weekends in quadrants, assuming I ever came. But I’m glad to know that I am — and my son — can start to relax just a little bit more.

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