KALIS: How much is too much for our kids?

Oct 16, 2012


Like many others, my kids have chosen to become so active that sometimes I think it would be nice to have a personal assistant to keep it all straight. I’m seriously considering buying stock in Post-it notes, and I actually asked for a chauffeur’s hat for Mother’s Day.

My trunk is constantly stocked with chairs, blankets, water bottles, hockey sticks, umbrellas, extra clothes, coolers of drinks and/or food, and random athletic equipment. I am ready for anything.

But all of this begs the question: How much is too much?

I always fall back on these key points:

(1) Are your child’s grades slipping in school?
(2) Is your child tired, grumpy and always getting sick?
(3) Is your child unhappy and reluctant to go to practice?

If you answer “yes” to any of these, then clearly something has to give. But what if you answer “no” to all of these questions, then what?

It is hard these days to know when enough is enough. There are so many more opportunities available for our kids than there were when we were young. We all want our children to experience all that they can — and grow up to be happy, healthy and well-rounded adults. But, at the same time, we are also aware of the importance of a little thing called “down time.”

I was always a big advocate of down time and never was one to over-schedule my kids; but admittedly, as they’ve gotten older, that has been harder and harder to hold onto.

Sure, some people might say, “Well, you’re the parent, just say no.” The problem is, how do you choose what to say no to? It’s not that simple.

For example, how can you pit something like soccer against Science Olympiad? On one hand, sports are so important for kids. They keep them physically fit, build self-confidence, and teach them things like teamwork and how to graciously win or lose. On the other hand, you have an incredible academic program that reinforces good study habits, testing skills, time management and the like.

Both activities are significant to be involved with for many different reasons. And if your child excels at them — and more importantly, loves both — well, that makes it even more difficult to choose one over the other.

Of course, if they do both, where does that precious down time come in? I say anywhere you can fit it — laughing, talking and singing along to music in the car; snuggling on the couch before bed; going for ice cream after a practice; playing catch during half-time; or a board game while dinner’s cooking, etc.

The funny thing I have found is that, when my kids have a significant amount of down time, they do exactly what they always do! Ironically, when my daughter takes a break from studying, she reads a book. When my son doesn’t have practice, he gets his friends together to play a soccer, football or in-line hockey game. To them, their activities are fun.

Sure, at times it’s pretty stressful on us parents. In fact, I thought about starting a self-help group called “When Seasons Overlap,” but then I figured members would be too busy to come to the meetings!

The way I look at it though is this: If my kids are happy and their grades are good, and we can make it work, then why not?

Yes, the logistics aren’t always easy, and it is hard to make commitments and plans, but there truly is no place my husband and I would rather be than on the sidelines, in an auditorium or at a rink cheering on our kids.

Obviously, there will come a time when difficult decisions will have to be made without question — but until then, I will remain a mom of many titles.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get that chauffeur’s hat.

— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist


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