Amy Dunkin

Yesterday I actually felt sorry for my son. After school, he had two hours of Hebrew school and a one-hour hockey practice ahead of him. Somewhere in between he had to fit math and social studies homework, 20 minutes of independent reading, and piano and trombone practice. (He really didn't have to practice trombone because yesterday was his first band lesson in school. But he was excited about it and wanted to play it, and who can blame him for that?) Also on this 9-year-old's to-do list: eat and just be a kid.

It came way too close to my own frenetic adult schedule, which--on a day I was supposed to work at home--included a two-hour commute and four hours in the office, having to pick up my son and drive him to Hebrew school, a quick trip to the store to buy underwear, consultations with the workers in my backyard who are building us a new deck, getting two boys dressed and driven to separate hockey practices, and attending an open house at the school to meet their teachers. Dinner? Three brussel sprouts and a chocolate yogurt on the run.

Are our lives crazy or what? Worse, are we making our childrens' lives crazy? I ask myself this every time I look at the big calendar on the kitchen wall where I have all their activities written down. I don't mean to pile things on, but with regular school and religious school, music lessons, and a few sports, before you know it you have an overscheduled kid.

Unfortunately, I don't have the perfect solution to this quagmire. Whenever we add a new activity, I try to cut another one out. (This year, Hebrew school took precedence over swimming lessons and Cub Scouts for my older son; hockey replaced karate and swimming for my 6-year-old.)

Even more important is to recognize that no schedule is set in stone. I always listen to my kids and try to gauge what they can handle. If either one seems ill, tired, or overly stressed, we just skip the activity, with no recriminations, no guilt.

Yesterday my son begged me to let him miss Hebrew school. He told me he knew it was important, that he'd go next week, that skipping it once would not turn into a regular routine. Then I looked at his face, I read his voice, and I couldn't give him a good reason at that moment to make him go. At the end of the day, I had a much happier boy.

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