Family life

Me and my overscheduled kids

Tracy Chappell's daughters just started their hockey season. How do you manage the time crunch of extracurriculars?

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Avery takes to the ice. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

We’re always told not to overschedule our kids. They need downtime, experts say, room in their lives to just hang out and do what they feel like doing. I believe that wholeheartedly. At the same time, our kids learn amazing things from taking part in extracurricular sports, clubs and activities. I don’t have to run through a laundry list of those things. You know. I certainly do, after watching my kids learn and grow though hockey, dance classes, swimming lessons and soccer.

It’s the time commitment that’s the issue. Last year we had it relatively easy because my girls were on the same hockey team, so we only had one schedule to follow. On top of that, Anna was in Sparks, and both of the girls took swimming lessons. But we found it too many nights out, which took away from our mealtimes, books at bedtime and homework, and I could see the girls were tired of always having something on the calendar. We also like to go away on weekends, and I like to go out with my girlfriends on the occasional weeknight, and it made those standard things feel like added scheduling pressures. It’s easy to get burnt out. We felt constantly rushed. We ended up dropping out of swimming lessons, which almost killed me, because swimming was always my must-do, but something had to go, and I knew we could pick up swimming again in the spring.

My situation isn’t rare — in fact, we may be among some of the less-scheduled people I know, especially among my fellow hockey families (and those who do karate, which is often a three-times-a-week commitment), and those in competitive activities. People always ask me if Anna will try out for rep hockey and, honestly, I’m relieved she’s not interested. My head would probably explode.

This year, Anna and Avery are on different hockey teams, though their games will likely be at similar times (on different rinks!). I found a night they can both do Girl Guides at the same place, to help save some evenings. And we already decided to stop swimming lessons until we see how our fall schedule plays out. I feel grateful to their teachers, who don’t seem to be handing out homework and I think I overheard Anna’s teacher telling another parent that she believes that evening hours should be reserved for families (and of course, all those extracurriculars), so the kids are only given reading homework, or whatever they didn’t finish in class. (This is a topic for another post, but I totally agree with her.)

I already have that “How are we going to get dinner into them?” panic, because getting kids to places by five-something with equipment/uniforms on and something in their tummies is no easy feat. We are having to do some fancy work scheduling to make it all happen, which brings its own complications.

How do you manage the time crunch brought on by extracurriculars? I’d love to hear your strategies for getting everyone where they need to be without going completely insane (or getting fired).