Embrace the Chaos!

July 21, 2008

Today I received one of those sickeningly nostalgic emails from a distant friend.  It was all about the halcyon childhood of the baby boom generation:  Simpler times without the pervasive influence of modern media, Abercrombie & Fitch, and hyper-competitive parents.  I actually appreciated it — it rang true!

For years I have been one of those parents that aspires to preserve the innocence of childhood.  My four kids don’t watch a lot of TV, don’t spend much time on the computer, and are generally pretty sheltered from all the bad stuff that appears in the media (I have described them as “media retarded”).  Johanna and I really do believe that kids should be able to entertain themselves, and we have made a conscious effort not to commit them to too many activities at any given time.  We used to say one activity per season (usually a sport, sometimes an instrument), but as they have gotten older, we find ourselves breaking our own rule more and more regularly.

This spring, we had three kids in elementary school and one in pre-school.  The volume of commitments was overwhelming — three baseball teams, an orchestra, after school sports, a musical, an art class, Sunday school, a million birthday parties, and play dates on the rare day that something else wasn’t scheduled after school.  Weekends were almost comical:  “You go here with Scout, I’ll go there with Tucker and Daisy, then you’ll drop Scout with me and take Chester there, and I’ll drop off Daisy at her party… And then we’ll meet at home for lunch before the afternoon starts.”  It was all great — the kids have an absolute blast with their friends — but it was just plain exhausting for us all.  Johanna likes to quip, “We’ve been tired for about 10 years”.  We looked forward to the last day of school, the first day of summer, when things would surely slow down.  “But noooooooo…”

Summer has been almost as crazy.  First camps for the older 3, then family vacation with sailing and tennis lessons, scheduling lunches and dinners with the cousins, and can you believe that somebody had the audacity to invite the little guy to an ice cream party at 5:00 tonight?  Crazy!

I am not sharing this to provoke your sympathy.  We have chosen this busy life and we love every minute of it.  My point is that resistance is futile.  We are not living in the 1950s (have you seen June Cleaver in your neighborhood recently?) and face it, the world has become a very fast moving, competitive place.  Unless you have the courage to become Amish or move to Alaska, if your kids are growing up in America your life is going to be very, very busy.  So rather than complaining or wishing things were different, embrace this busy life and find ways to participate in all the good stuff your kids enjoy so much.