We’ve almost made it to October and in my little part of the Midwest we’ve actually had decent weather for sideline sitting so far. And we’ve been doing a lot of sideline sitting! I wrote about keeping perspective on your kiddos and sports here. Today I thought I’d write about how we determine priorities when we have schedule conflicts and how we try to maintain sanity with three boys who are all involved in sports year round.
Some days, the dropping off and picking up for practices can be a little hectic and I have to remind myself why do sports. (They love the activity, it teaches them teamwork and how to take direction from coaches, it helps them with time management, they build friendships, learn how to handle losses, etc.) I’m pretty sure sports could overrun our lives, though, if I didn’t set a few ground rules.
The first ground rule is to follow our family priority list. I read somewhere the importance of making a priority list for your family. (And honestly, I can’t remember where, but if you’ve heard this before, please let me know and I will give proper credit!) You don’t have to hang the list on the wall in some fancy Pinterest frame, but you do have to talk about it with your kids and explain your reasoning. And no, I didn’t get my kids’ input on it. We’re not a democracy. We’re a benevolent monarchy…So, our family’s list looks like this:
When there’s a schedule conflict, we hold it up to this list. For example, for some reason, Sunday mornings are no longer off-limits for meets and practices. This annoys me. Anyway, if a Sunday meet or practice shows up on the calendar, we hold it up to the list. Is it higher in importance than their Sunday School class? Nope. So they don’t go to the meet or practice. Here’s how it’s helpful: we are being consistent with our priorities as a family. If I had to make a decision every time we had a schedule conflict, there would be so much whining, arguing, and inconsistency. When I use this list, I’m not making a decision. We are just observing where things fall on the priority list and proceeding accordingly. I don’t think I could handle having to make the call every time.
Are my kids disappointed sometimes? Yes. They would much rather go to a sports practice than Sunday School. I mean, they’re kids. It’s not just Sunday School, though. For example, one of my kids will miss an out-of-town soccer tournament because we have some celebrations with our extended family. I think if left to their own devices, my kids would choose family over sports, but having the priority list sort of formalizes our identity as a family – “This is how our family does things”- and I think at some level the structure and consistency is pretty comforting to them. Your priority list might look completely different than mine. The important thing is to be intentional. Know why you are choosing the order for your priorities. Be able to explain it to your kids.
Another ground rule I’ve found helpful is the one-sport-per-season rule. One of my kiddos wanted to do travel soccer and flag football at the same time this fall. Logistically, it’s possible. You just miss one of the practices for either sport each week (because they overlap). And sometimes there might be a game time conflict. Realistically, I know it’s not possible for us. There are three kids and only two of us. If I let one of them do two sports, schedule-wise it’s like adding another kid. And I know my kids. When they’re over-tired, they’re horrible people. Whiny, emotional train wrecks. Which makes me an annoyed, emotional train wreck. So, no thank you. It might work for other families – you have to know your kids and what they can handle. For us, it’s a hard pass.
Every choice has a consequence, and I will tell you I had a lot of mom-guilt when I saw the look on my little guy’s face the other weekend. We were at the high school football game and all of his pals were wearing their flag football jerseys. I know he was bummed. The guilt was erased by the knowledge that we are trying not to over-extend ourselves. And he can switch sports next year if he wants. (Did I mention he’s only 8?) By sticking to one sport, we still enjoy sitting on the sidelines, they can go all-in on one sport, and they have at least two days in the school week where there are no practices and they can just go outside to play.
It’s a wonderful first-world problem to have all these amazing opportunities for our kids to choose from. My time with my kids under my roof is finite, though, and I want to try to spend the time in a way that reflects what we feel is valuable and minimizes stress. If you have any tips to keep extracurriculars from running your calendar, please leave them in the comments!
Our family is just making its first foray into the world of kids sports as our almost five year old attempts ice hockey. We’re facing these scheduling issues for the first time and it’s nice to have a framework to structure our discussions within. Thanks, Julie – your practical tips save the day once again!