As you might remember from my "Extra Curricular Crackdown," I don't over-schedule the kids. We're a family of six now, and if we treat each child like an only child (like when our oldest, Sam, did every baby class offered in town) then we will all lose our minds.
When it comes to whether or not to sign up for an activity, I'm relaxed and reasonable. I'm all for our kids trying new things, but I don't sign them up for classes and teams with the fear that our lives will collapse into worthlessness if we're not attempting the same frenzied schedule as everyone else.
Here's where I get considerably LESS reasonable: I feel a sense of dread and panic if I cannot attend Sam's soccer and baseball games. Okay, exaggeration. I'm fine if I'm not the one there, but it's not an overstatement to say that I arrange the entire week around making sure that someone is there (such as Bryan or one of Sam's grandparents). I haven't had a scheduling conflict so far, but with four kids, there's no question that day will arrive.
I'm lucky that Sam has only played on teams in the summer so far. (We have yet to find a school-year league that doesn't play on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.) I'm also lucky that Rebecca (5) wants nothing to do with playing on a team as of now. Elissa is only 3. And although baby Nate obviously can't play on a team yet or star in a recital, his early bedtime presents a huge obstacle to Sam's evenings games.
Bryan thinks I'm acting crazy and has what he considers the perfect solution. I should drop Sam off at the field then bring the other three kids home so Nate can settle in his crib. (Nate is truly a wreck by 6pm.) Bryan, who works about 40 minutes from the field when there's traffic, says he'll get there by the end of the game to collect Sam. This, Bryan says, is what happens in most families where the kids play sports.
"But then nobody will be there to watch him for most of the game," I say every time.
Bryan doesn't understand the problem. He insists that back in the day when he played sports, he played for the love of the game, not for the "audience."
The thought of Sam looking over at the sideline and seeing nobody there specifically for him makes me shudder. Many of these kids have parents who both work; still, one of the parents manages to get there.
I realize that what I'm calling a "problem" would be laughable to anyone with real problems like not being able to feed their children. Furthermore, my attitude about this whole thing goes against EVERY one of my parenting principles. I do not believe in raising kids to feel they're the center of the universe. I applauded when I saw the video from the high school graduation ceremony where the commencement speaker spent twelve minutes giving the seniors an excellent explanation of this: Despite what you've been led to believe by your parents for most of your lives, you are not, in fact, special. It was brilliant. (Take the time to watch it. It's incredible.)
Still, I can't get over the idea of Sam being at his games "alone." So basically I've ignored Bryan's plan and hired my neighbor who is home from college for the summer to watch the other three kids on the two nights a week that Sam has games. This is getting pricey. Plus, she's not always available.
Will Sam survive if he plays for 30 minutes without one of his parents or grandparents there?
Yes. Of course Sam will survive. Would he rather have someone from his family there every time? Yes, he would, but I know in my heart that bending the needs of the rest of the family to make sure Sam has us in attendance for the entire game is absolute insanity. Certainly it's not a schedule we can maintain once the other kids get into sports and other activities.
I know this, so why can't I stop making sure he's never without a personal cheering section?
I look forward to your opinions and guidance.
A version of this post originally appeared on http://ninabadzin.com.