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Parents, Take Back Your Weekends

"A well-organized, color-coded Google Calendar of six different carpools does not make you a better parent."

Published on: March 13, 2018

mother and daughter enjoying the weekend

After ditching my youngest son with a neighbor before school, I arrived two minutes late to my office-sponsored yoga, just in time for a dharma talk on the yoga concept of aparigraha, or “letting go.”

“In order to make room for something new or better, you must let something go.”

It got me thinking: What can I let go of to take back our weekends?

Because it’s that time: Spring sports and activities sign-ups, a.k.a. that wonderful time of year where it seems like a good idea to sign up for soccer even though you know that means a schedule anchor every Saturday for the next ten weeks.

You can already see it: Divide and conquer weekends running all over creation and absolutely no family down time.

It’s a pretty common scenario, really. You have the first kid, you sign up for peewee soccer, then piano lessons. Then they want to give Scouts a try. OK, that’s somewhat manageable. But then kid no. 2 comes around and after you get through toting a potty-training toddler to soccer games the little prince wants to play, too, and how can you deprive him? But then there’s an opportunity to audition for the school play. What a great opportunity! That sounds awesome!

And what if there’s a no. 3? If every child plays a sport and a musical instrument and joins some sort of community organization event this family of five has 12 extra-curricular activities.

It sounds reasonable for each child to have access to these activities; you want to raise a well-rounded child, right? But the math doesn’t work. It means every single weeknight there are multiple practices or meetings. It means every weekend both days are jammed slogging from one activity to the next.

No down time. No unstructured play for your children.

Let me be clear: A well-organized, color-coded Google Calendar of six different carpools does not make you a better parent. It does not ensure long-term success for your children. When looking in the mirror ask yourself: "Is this the life I want to be leading? If not, what can I change?"

When taking a hard look at your children, ask yourself: "What kind of future adults do I want them to be? Does this pace or particular activity help get them there?"

Trust my cautionary tale on over-scheduling. Despite setting what I thought were pretty reasonable limits on what I allowed my sons to do, we hit a breaking point three years ago.

Each child was playing a sport (and my husband and I were each coaching one of the teams), there were clubs, an academic competition team, all in addition to increasingly challenging homework. There was yelling. A lot of yelling. I screamed “Come on, hustle!” dozens of times every day. Every Monday when the 5:00 a.m. alarm sounded I hummed along to the Pete Yorn song, “...and another lost weekend, need another vacation.”

I am here to say it’s okay to take back your weekends. You deserve them. Your family needs them. Here’s how:

  • Make smart activity choices. They can be close by, a good experience or inexpensive — aim for activities with two of those qualities. (And if you find one with all three, stick with it!)
  • No more than two activities at a time per child. Want to try something new? Cool. What will you and your child “let go” of to make that happen? You can take a lacrosse season off and still come back to it. I promise.
  • Unless it’s a top-five best friend, decline a child’s birthday invitation. Especially in preschool, where all-class invitations are typical. There are 12 kids in that class, you could be at Charles E. Fromage once a month! Most preschoolers don’t become lifelong friends (my BFF of 41 years and I excepted).
  • Order all the things. I mean, EVERYTHING. Skip your big-box store errands for or Amazon Prime. Your precious family time is worth it.
  • Skip the meeting. That’s right, if there’s a parent’s meeting for an upcoming Youth Group trip, ask if the information will be sent out via email. You don’t need to hear it twice. And you can copy that email information right into your google calendar that suddenly has a lot more white space.

You must empty your cup before you can fill it with something better. Say no. Be greedy with your family’s time. This morning I had to stand on my tippy toes to kiss my almost 16-year-old twins goodbye as I challenged them to a Q-Bitz rematch tonight, a rematch made possible by an open calendar, a stark reminder of just how precious my time with them is.

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