The crazy years of extracurricular activities While sitting around a bonfire early this summer with a few mom friends the subject of extracurricular activities came up. Namely, the vast amount of time spent on the road, shuffling children from one practice to the next. 

The majority of us, all with kids in or nearing double digits nodded knowingly as one mom detailed her hectic weekly schedule. Music lessons for both her children at 4pm, followed by baseball practice at 5:30pm for her son, and a mad dash to her daughter’s dance class, which began at 6pm. She would then race back to baseball for pick up and back again to dance where she might catch the last five minutes of her daughter’s routine. 

This phase of parenting, when a 3pm happy meal and 9pm popcorn suffice as dinner, when the gas tank’s never more than a quarter full, and family time feels like an afterthought, is a reality for many of us from the early elementary years until our babies hit driving age. 

The hustle and bustle of trying to fit it all in, knowing we’re overdoing it but terrified our kids will miss out if we don’t somehow cram it all onto the calendar—this is parenting, as we currently know it. And whatever preconceived notion we may have had about the end of the school year freeing up a few daytime hours was quickly shot down after a look at the pages and pages of morning activities offered by the local recreation center for the summer season. 

Are we making a mistake giving in to the multitude of opportunities presented to today’s children? Would it be healthier to cut back? To make them choose one? Many would say yes. Time together with family and friends, time to play, to explore, to imagine, these ideas have so much value of their own. Yes, my guess is that my kids would survive, and heck, even turn out pretty darn well if I stopped signing them up for things. 

Yet, each time I begin to believe that it’s truly time to slow down, one of my kids says or does something that stops me from going through with it. Whether it’s my son, begging me to kick the soccer ball around with him so just maybe he can score the winning goal at tomorrow’s game, or a view of my daughter out the window, finally acing the new tumbling skill she’s been working so hard on. 

These moments, when I see the pride in my children’s eyes, the smiles on their faces and the confidence that comes from having a skill, from learning something new, these are the moments that keep me loading up the car, hitting the gas pedal, and playing chauffeur night after night. 

Sitting around the fire that night, another mom, a recent addition to our gang with a preschooler and toddler at home, asked warily, “So you mean it doesn’t get easier once they’re older?”

The rest of us chuckled knowingly. Yes, I thought to myself, it does. The sleepless nights, diaper changes, and need for helicopter parenting go away, and with them go some of the most wonderful days of being a parent: chubby little legs first learning to walk, amazement and wonder at something as simple as a ladybug crossing a sidewalk, or the one-of-a-kind feeling of having your little one fall asleep in your arms for a midday nap. Those are the moments I often wish I could relive.

But in their place come new moments, and they are just as priceless. Enjoying a family vacation without being forced back to the hotel room by an exhaustion-induced tantrum, witnessing our children blossom into the people they were meant to be—who you helped them to become, and yes, even cheering like only a parent can at that little league baseball game. These are the moments I wouldn’t trade for the world. 

Is it harder now? That’s a tough question to answer. As kids get older, they get busier, and as a result we parents get busier too. Time flies by and moments as a family around the dinner table can feel few and far between. But every now and then we get the chance to witness that winning soccer goal, or that magical moment when months of practice pay off with a perfectly landed back handspring, and we realize it’s all been worth it.

As that same busy mom friend eventually conceded with a shake of her head and a smile, “It’s insanity, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”