Every day when I pick up my daughter from school, I inevitably dodge a parent who is rushing down the hallway with their reluctant child in tow, barking at them, “We have to go, we’re going to be late for fill in the blank practice.” The other day a mother of three rhetorically asked her children, “Why are we always late to everything?” Well, it’s obvious…isn’t it?
Now, as a working mother, I’m very familiar with, “Honey, we need to go now or we’re going to be late,” repeated more than a few times in elevated frustration each time – I get it, I am the parent of a lolly gagger. Let me take that back, I’m the parent of a four year old. That’s what they do. And I only have one. But now, there’s this heightened need to cram schedules with multiple activities…for whatever reasons. And in the circles with which I’m most familiar, these are on top of a full day of preschool which is already dictated by a strict schedule. Have I missed something? I did start motherhood a little later than many, but what happened to free time? When did, “Do you want to go to the park or have a tea party this afternoon?” get replaced with, “Don’t forget, we have t-ball team photos tonight followed by hockey practice.”? These are four year olds! To rush a demographic that is intrinsically slower and, as a result, more curious, imaginative, observant and mindful is a shame. This age is precious, and it’s a blink of an eye. Balance is necessary…for everyone.
I believe involvement is necessary. I believe challenges are necessary. I believe life is meant to be experienced. Overscheduling, however, has no place in my life or my child’s. It gets in the way of creativity, play and, well, childhood. And to the well-intentioned mother of three with the crazed eyes, I would answer you with this, “Maybe your kids don’t care that they’re late. Maybe they just want to go get ice cream and pretend their mint chocolate breath can stop an entire herd of fiery dragons.” And they should, they’re four. Give them some space; give them some simplicity.
Tell me, is the overscheduling a phenomenon in the U.S. or does it stretch to other westernized countries? What do you think of extra-curriculars for young children?