The All-Encompassing Exhaustion of Busy Kids
I am so tired. Like, exhausted tired. No amount of multi vitamins, eating plans, exercise, meditation, napping, can fix this. This is the exhaustion of parenting.
No, I’m not talking about new parent exhaustion. That’s entirely different. That’s walking dead tired. Zombification. I-only-slept-3-hours-in-as-many-days tired. Thank god I’m beyond that kind of tired. (Notice how I said, I’m beyond that. You new parents out there, there is hope. This will end.)
The tired I’m talking about is the multiple activities, entirely booked calendar, kind of tired. The, I-might-get-a-day-off-in-June-oh-wait-it-just-got-booked kind of tired.
Let me explain….
Last Tuesday, my daughter was home sick from her activities. In this case, gymnastics. My son was also home, simply because he’s between activities at the moment (swim club had yet to start and he was anxiously waiting for the track to dry up so he could ride). I didn’t realize how special this day was until I found myself cleaned up after having made and eaten supper and it wasn’t even six. As I was washing the dishes I was struck with the notion that I had an entire evening ahead of me with which to do whatever I wanted! I could go to the gym when I wanted to, not between picking up and dropping off kids. I could take the dog for a walk and not have to cut it short because a kid would be stuck waiting for me to come get them. I didn’t have to time our dinner between one kid having to be somewhere and another coming back. I had an entire after school and evening with NO SCHEDULE.
I don’t remember the last time that has ever happened. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. Every day we have had something booked. Every day my kids have activities. In the two months since purchasing a new truck (a new truck I purchased for the specific purpose of hauling my son’s dirt bikes) I have put on 6000km. 6000km of children’s activities. In fact, 95% of those kilometers are only one child’s activities, and mostly dance. Soon, the driving to swim practice twice a day, to motocross tracks, to swim meets and dirt bike races, to summer training sessions, to auditions, will start and those 6000km will seem like nothing.
This week, I was supposed to take my son down to Calgary to finally do some pre-season moto training. Yes, the first week of May, where most of the seasons have started everywhere else, and he is hoping to do some pre-season training because he’s had to wait through his sister’s dance competitions and both their arts festivals before we had a free week in which he could go. And we lost it! Because of more competitions. Now, in his sister’s defense, this competition was booked long ago and we should have been training earlier but the snow kept us away, but, in the past 6 weeks, we have not had three days in a row in which to go anywhere, nevermind a week. Many other riders have gone south to train while my son has had to sit on his ass and wait because I couldn’t get him anywhere because his sister was so booked.
And it’s not just us! We’ve been trying to book a birthday party with the extended family and they’re just as busy. Between two families and 4 fully booked kids, there doesn’t seem to be a free weekend from three weeks ago until the end of summer! We are all completely booked. We had one weekend free, in June, and my son’s friend’s mom called because they were so busy her own kid’s birthday was coming up and she needed to pre-book a weekend they could have her daughter’s party because she knew we were both so busy!
What is going on? Why can’t our kids not have a birthday party without weeks of pre-planning? Why are they activitied-out to the point of every single weekend from March until August being completely booked, if not double and in some cases, triple booked? I do not remember my life being like this as a child. In fact, I was bored. Almost all the time. My kids are never bored, they’re too goddamn busy.
Some of you would say, “Well, drop the activities.” And some of you would also argue this is a bed we made so we’d better sleep in it, even if we’re too fucking busy to sleep! And some would probably lump us into those groups of parents who are trying too hard to ensure their children’s success in life by over-booking them, over-scheduling them, and over-parenting them. But here’s the thing: we’ve tried to simplify our lives. We’ve tried to cut things out. In fact, things have gotten cut either on purpose or simply because we’ve been so booked they simply could not be in two places in one time. The problem is, when we cut something out, we eliminate something that actually brings joy and satisfaction to our kids lives. No matter how you slice it, these are the things my kids love. These are the things that get them out of bed in the morning. These are their passions and this is the time they have to pursue them. They don’t wake up excited for school, they drag their feet, moaning and groaning about having to get up. But for a race? For a competition? They’re up and getting ready because that is what they love to do!
They do not have to pay a mortgage. They do not have to pay bills. They do not have to work to make ends meet. Right now, they have hours of time to pursue the things they truly love. They have the time to show up, work hard, and come out of that rehearsal space or off the field or out of the pool having learned new skills alongside their peers, having solidified friendships that might keep them out of trouble, and feeling the exhaustion of working hard at something they love. Yes, it’s damn near impossible to schedule a birthday party, but to see the smile on their sweaty faces when they’ve danced hard, or raced hard, or finally landed that back handspring, makes it worth the scheduling nightmare. We may spend weekend after weekend sitting in an auditorium, or at a track, or in a pool, watching them instead of doing the things we want to do, but maybe, just maybe, this will teach them to follow that passion, to follow that love. Maybe it will help them chase that sense of accomplishment at the end of everyday, so when they do choose what path they’ll take as adults, they’ll know what it feels like to love something and go after it. They’ll pursue something that might exhaust them but will also energize them because they have aligned themselves with their passion rather than doing what they feel they have to do.
I’m tired. But I’m tired from running back and forth so that my child could do what she loves. I got to see her face shine on stage. And I got to be there when she was disappointed when it didn’t. This is the stuff that will enable her to reach her full potential as an adult. She knows what it feels like to spend the day working hard at something she loves, and she knows what it feels like to be stuck, bored, doing things she doesn’t. Hopefully, that knowing will make the difference between her pursuing a career she is passionate about rather than settling for something less than. Right now, my kids are doing what it is they want to do rather than wasting time on social media, partying, doing drugs and so forth. Right now, they have big dreams for their futures, dreams that involve these activities. They may change their minds when they get older and do something different, but when I look back on this time in our lives I doubt I’m going to say, I wish we’d just stayed home more often. I hope to look back on this time and say, I’m glad I gave them that chance, even if my life is a little more exhausting because of it.