Never sign your children up for anything

 photo IMG_3561_zpsbd50760d.jpgThe biggest mistake I’ve made as a parent is that I started a playgroup for my firstborn when she was four months old.

FOUR MONTHS. Think about this: Why the heck did she need a playgroup at four months of age?

Let this be a cautionary tale to you new parents. Because, after a few months of pleasant chatting with other moms while our babies kicked their chubby legs on blankets spread carefully over the rug, the little buggers started reaching out and taking each other’s toys. I later remember the three little boys and three little girls all lurching around on unsteady legs, so excited to have someone their size to push over or hold onto when the world got spinny.

And, just like that, my daughter had a social life. And she knew there was a world “out there” that she wanted to explore.

So explore we did.

We went to “mommy and me*” gymnastics, swimming, and music classes that consisted of her swinging a tambourine around in my lap while we sang the most godawful tunes. As she got older, we added art classes, dance instruction, the “everyone gets a trophy” soccer teams, and group nature hikes where we drove twenty minutes to collected the same leaves and acorns I could collect in my backyard.

The whole time, I thought I was so smart. We weren’t overdoing it. Even as she got older, her activities never became of the “five day a week” variety like I saw with some of her peers.

But, I kept having children. And they too learned about playgroups and gymnastics and art classes. Last year, they even took indoor rock climbing classes!

Because I apparently forgot the whole mathematical rule that says (and I paraphrase): If you keep having children and keep adding activities, the cumulative effect will be that you will become batshit crazy. Or X + Y = *(@)#&!(*!!!!!!!!!!!!

This year, when I tried to assemble our jigsaw puzzle of a schedule using a color-coded spreadsheet, I had a revelation that I shared with Liz: “NEVER SIGN YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR ANYTHING.” Because now that they are 8, 10, and 12, they know there are so many things out there to do, and the world is their oyster.**

As homeschoolers, I could have had three children happily whittling away on the porch, who later go off to tend their backyard garden, or who retire inside to knit and read. I could’ve smugly laughed at all those parents who need color-coded spreadsheets to keep track of the days. They could’ve been hermits, and not even lonely hermits, because they have each other. And the squirrels in the back yard.

Instead, I’ve become that person in a minivan driving to the performing arts school, dropping off two kids so I can then drive the third to swim lessons, before picking up the other two, and rushing everyone home for an 8pm dinner.

It all started, I swear, with that playgroup when my oldest was four months old.


*we live in a more enlightened time now where these classes are called “parent/child”, but back a dozen years, things weren’t so politically correct

**provided their parents can afford it; horseback riding lessons, hockey, and skiing are still on the back burner for that reason


  1. Well, your kids are certainly social, so maybe you were on to something! I used to feel like I was missing out, as I never got involved in mommy playgroups. But we had our fair share of activities, which may have been as much for a housebound-mommy as it was for them. Now that my kids are older and have school, I am much more protective of their free time.

  2. As I think you know, Laurel is very anti-scheduling and we just roll with it. At most, we’ve only ever done one thing a season. Also, I will fully admit that I wasn’t disappointed after her first season of soccer when she decided to stop because hey, it was going from 1 practice/1 game in town/week to 2 practices/1 game traveling team. I loathe schlepping around.

    And I also laugh now when I think about the early playdates for firstborns. We did the same thing for Laurel and for Violet? She’s 2.5 and still has yet to have a playdate of her own. And I don’t see that changing any time soon! She mostly loves chasing Laurel and her friends around anyway!
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  3. Well, I for one and happy that you did that playgroup as it got us to hang out more socially than just at holiday parties. 😀 I have a similar looking schedule and a friend visiting from out of town. I find myself saying, “we’d love to see you, I hope you don’t mind going to a couple of soccer games and a dance performance” lol
    Funny enough, i seem to have learned something though because #3 is not NEARLY as busy as his sisters were and we are all good with that!

    • Yes, Julie, #3 did hardly anything until this year. Now that he has a couple of things on the calendar, though, we went from “manageable” to “holy crap, how am I going to be in two places at the same time.” ; ) (and, yes, I made some great friends in playgroup, so my moaning in mostly in jest). ..

  4. So….does this mean you’d like to do things differently in the future or you’ve resigned yourself to this scheduling routine???
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  5. Thank God we lived in Spain when my twins were 2-4 years old and they didn’t have much in the way of activities or playgroups. We came back to the states too late to sign up for swim classes (so I hired a lifeguard to teach the basics) thus we missed the whole swim team craze. They eventually found out about camps and teams and such, but we were able to limit them to one team per season. Somehow I still ended up driving a LOT. I remember asking my mom “how did you do it with FIVE kids?” And she would smile and say, “one at a time….”

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