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Nina Badzin Headshot

The Extracurricular Crackdown

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Watch out folks: Mama stepped out of the mini-van. You'll no longer find me driving all over town at ridiculous hours of the day chasing the newest extracurricular whim.

How did I do it? I staged an extracurricular crackdown. If you're overwhelmed by your kids' schedule, I urge you to join me.

Here is the regimen:

#1. No more driving out of your way. If there's a perfectly good soccer league in your park district, but you're driving thirty-minutes each way to be with "everybody else," ask yourself whether that's a good use of your precious time. Sure, the league three towns over has a better reputation, but are your kids training for the World Cup? I don't think so.

#2. No more picking activities based on your friends. Let's be honest, parents spend a good portion of the bleacher time on their iPhones or chasing after the younger siblings who got dragged along. Carve out quality time to see your friends. The people who disappear now that you watch ballet or swimming class through a different window weren't your real friends in the first place.

#3. No more picking activities based on your kids' friends. We have to stop projecting our social anxiety onto our kids. If choosing the time of day and location that works for your family means your child won't know a soul in the class or on the team, then to that I say: So what? Kids' friendships ebb and flow. We do our kids a disservice by assuming they can't handle making new friends after age four.

#4. No more secretly hoping you gave birth to the next superstar. We sacrifice our time, money, energy, and depleting resources of sanity so we can feel proud of our ourselves -- I mean, our kids. Even if we've accepted that our child isn't going to be the next pre-scandal Tiger Woods, we justify the over-programming by insisting we want our kids to have hobbies. I want my kids to have hobbies, too. But I hope they'll come by some of those interests naturally. For free. And within walking distance of our house.

#5. No more activities at inconvenient times. Nap time is sacred. I don't care if the Queen Bee from Mommy and Me with the non-napping kid convinced the whole gang to register for a 1PM music class next quarter. Stay home and take advantage of the peace and quiet. This wisdom also applies to full-time working parents who've been guilt-suckered into evening music and gym classes. Sing some catchy songs during dinner and clap your hands a few times. You'll skip the 6PM fiasco at the actual class, save tons of money, and actually have a conversation with your spouse.

#6. Remember: money doesn't grow on trees and neither do hockey skates. It's good for kids to understand there are other people in the house (and the world) with wants and needs. In fact, the astronomical cost of activities is reason enough to scale back right away. Why should it be that you can't afford a yoga class twice a month, but little McKenna has sampled art, karate, gymnastics, and tennis in one semester?

So who's with me? Let's pull over our mini-vans, raise our hands in unity, and take back the day. And the night! And the weekend!

Let the crackdown begin.