Dear Kid Whisperer,
My son is nine. He plays baseball and hockey. He also takes guitar lessons. Now he wants to play soccer next season. He also is in plays. His father is usually out of town. I want my child to be able to do everything he wants to do, but I am so stressed from running him from place to place, cleaning and packing his hockey equipment, etc., and I am trying to figure out how I can do all of these things (and pay for them) so that he doesn’t have to go without these activities. Please help. – Janine, Columbus, Ohio
Holy Moly, that sounds exhausting and I cannot help you with this.
I think you may have mistaken me for a parenting expert.
I am really, really not a parenting expert. All I am is a person who shows adults how to take great care of themselves and shows them how to elicit positive behaviors from children. I can tell you, for instance, that a nine year old can clean and pack his own hockey equipment.
I don’t even really know what a parenting expert would be. If it is a person who could figure out how to manage the dizzying amount of activities your son does, and that is the answer that you want, I guess you need to find a parenting expert. I, on the other hand, have no idea what to tell you.
What I will say is that you have a paradigm regarding your son’s activities that is impossible to manage and unhealthy to have. Your paradigm, as far as I can tell, is that if your son wants to do an activity, it is your job as a mother to make sure he can do that activity no matter what the cost.
Having this view of the situation hurts you and it hurts him.
It hurts you because you are trying to do something that, by your own description, is horribly stressful for your family and is putting you in the poorhouse. Stress kills. It will shorten the length of your life and greatly diminish the quality of your life.
Are you really willing to sacrifice all of this so that your son is able to chase a ball around a soccer field?
This paradigm hurts your son in several ways, not the least of which is that he has a horribly stressed out mother. It also hurts him because you are reinforcing the idea that it the primary function of the woman in his life to attend to his wants. If this continues, I’ll need to get all of your contact information so that I can make sure that my daughter never meets your son.
I realize that your way of looking at childhood activities is the norm in our “child centered” culture. This doesn’t make it right. I won’t and can’t answer the question that you asked me, because your question really boils down to “I am trying to do the impossible, how do I do that?” A better question would be “How do I create a functional approach to my son’s activities?”
My answer to that is simple: Decide how many activities you don’t mind paying for and driving your son to. Make sure this amount of activities won’t stress you out. This is how I would explain this to your kid if I were you:
Kid Whisperer: From now on I have to take better care of myself. I am too stressed having to take you to two and three activities at a time. From now on, you can pick one sport or activity per season, and two during the summer.
Kid: But I want to do the musical and soccer and triangle lessons next season!
Kid Whisperer: And how many activities can you do per season?
Kid Whisperer: Right. Thanks for understanding.
If you take better care of yourself, you will be able to take better care of your kid. Good luck!