The Dangers of the Overscheduled Child


How did we come to this pass?

Just a couple of years back, our life was leisurely, snubnose was 4 and a very mature 4 at that. As a family, we were all starting to relax and chill out…and then Piglet stormed into our life, and things have gone back to mad crazy busy.

To give ourselves a little breathing space, we enrolled snubnose in art class. It was (still is) a one class a week affair, and it allowed one of us the pleasure of sleeping in on a saturday morning. And, the snubnose took to it like a duck to water. Happy times all around.

But then a year later, she started getting restless. Mama, I want ballet. I put her off for a year (the timing and the location of the class was inconvenient), but she continued to insist and so I inevitably gave way.

Art and ballet…still manageable. I needed to do a little rescheduling of my work day, but seeing her enthusiasm, I was willing to go for it.

But then…the demands continued, and again I gave in…piano classes entered the picture, and now last month, the snubnose boldly walked up and enrolled herself in a taekwondo class!

In her new taekwondo dress
The piano and taekwondo classes are in my neighborhood. There’s no pick up/drop involved and so I didn’t kick up too much of a fuss.

But then as the end of the year approaches, I see the problem with this laid back approach I have taken with the snubnose’s enthusiasms.

End of the year means showing off time, which means school annual day rehearsals, ballet performance rehearsals, and piano exams. And organizing her schedule is driving me nuts.

Every day I field calls from art teacher, ballet teacher, piano teacher…all of them want extra slots so that they can catch up. Apart from organizing her schedule and making sure she gets to where she needs to be, I also end up juggling finances. Snubnose missed two taekwondo classes last month (trainers away because of Diwali), OK, make a note to make the appropriate deduction in fee payment to her teacher. Multiply this effort with four different teachers all charging a different rate for their classes, and I can be excused for putting my foot down extremely firmly (I may have actually stomped childishly), when snubnose suggested that Bharatnatyam or Kathak would also be very nice.

No, snubnose. No more new classes for you!

Next month I have a short work trip and will be away from home for about 10 days, and so I started explaining this routine to my husband who snapped irritably at me. He being the manager that he is has asked me to create an excel spreadsheet with all the class slots and payment details.

And this is what I am doing now. It’s approaching midnight and I am doing a brain dump listing out all details so that he can manage without me in December. It’s a really tough task as doing this spreadsheet, I see there are so many time overlaps to be resolved and December is the busiest month. Poor K.

Gah, snubnose, do you have to enroll yourself in absolutely everything that comes your way?

To other mums, how do you know when your child is overscheduled? I’d really like her to do a bit less, but she’s a pretty driven child and is equally enthusiastic about all her classes. And I have a problem saying No :(.

What a fix we are in now.

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  • she seems to be really good at multitasking. so many different kinds of classes. It’s good that she is interested in trying out new things. Maybe it will be better to focus on one or two, instead of so many. Maybe you can pick the ones that she is most enthusiastic about.

    • Nish

      @Ava: I think it would be better too. So far,I am not sure she knows what she is interested in, probably needs to explore all possibilities for a year or so before she whittles down her choices to one or two.

  • Wow.. the kid is gifted. And here you are worried about managing her schedule. I envy her. When I was in school, my father didn’t want me to go for any of these classes coz it would affect my academics. As if I ended up with a state rank. :-/
    Unless and until she finds them difficult, I guess, she would not give up on her quest to learn more. So my thought would be, leave it to her choice.. and have fun on planning her schedule 🙂

    • Nish

      @sweety: I have a similar story to yours too…I was enrolled in swimming classes and I was doing very good and enjoying it too. But the classes came in the way of monthly test and so I was forced to discontinue :(…that too in 6th standard. In spite of all this, I was only average in studies anyway

  • Gosh, my son is 4 and he’s got swimming and tae kwon do and I feel that it’s a lot already for him. Though I’d still like him to take up some type of musical lesson too… errr, I don’t really have an advice for you except to go for what your daughter wants to do! If she’s got the passion of them and her schoolwork isn’t suffering then good for her!

    • Nish

      @Tien: Yeah, both swimming and taekwondo are taxing physically. A classical music class could be a good addition as it’s not physically strenuous + there are all these studies that show music stimulates the part of the brain that does math…so I would go for it if it’s not hard on you. But, more than that would be hard. I am thinking the magic number here is 3 classes only :).

  • It’s awesome. I thinks it is very sensible advice.

  • I found your blog through another blog and your post really resonated with me.

    I am having this issue with my 14 year old. It will surprise you to know that she is only doing one activity: softball. However, her school academy practice is 2 1/2 hours each day, her regular team practice is 1 1/2 hours three times per week (the other team that I pulled her from wanted 2 1/2 hours three times per week). That makes approx. 15+ hours per week of practice. If you add on that she has a paper route, a part-time/occasional job looking after neighbour’s dogs, and we live in an area where you are usually driving a 1/2 hour to each of these things, the pace gets ridiculous. And when a child is older, they are pushed harder and more is required of them. My daughter’s joints are starting to pop and creak and she is developing health problems, such as asthma symptoms, headaches, dizziness, etc. all of them brought on by stress. And you think it’s not a bad stress because she enjoys doing all these things, but eventually there is only so much a body can take and it starts to break down. Last Saturday, one of my daughter’s teammates collapsed and was taken away by ambulance at practice, I’m assuming from over-work and exhaustion. Not good. It’s better to start habits of balance when they are smaller instead of trying to fix something that is already like a run-away roller coaster when they are older.

    We are going to be making some hard decisions in the coming weeks. I think part of the problem is that we live near a big city and everything is always go-go-go-go. But we need to find the balance in that before it starts to become more serious. We have to remember as parents, that rest, stillness and even boredom are not only good for children but necessary. I’m looking forward to my daughter experiencing them again!

    Good luck with your decisions and guidance. With your daughter’s wonderful curiosity and interest, I don’t think you have to worry about her missing out!

    • Nish

      @Cleo: Thank you so much for the insights. It’s true, we are going to have to prune out some activities just so that she gets time to breathe.

  • I just sat up and took notice… I am going to be entering this phase, but I am a home-maker – it will be a bit easier – but God! there are just too many things 🙂 Do you ever get time for yourself ? 🙂

    • Nish

      @Veena: A couple of classes a week are nice, gives the kid something new to learn and give you a couple of hours to yourself. I don’t mind snubnose’s art class because I can drop her off, do the grocery rounds, visit the library, and then am in time to pick her up, so it’s quite an efficient routine.

      The ballet class is a real pain, and all the extra rehearsals for her year-end performance eats into everyone’s time :(.

  • I assumed till now it is the parents who over schedule their kids, and looks like it isn’t always so. I am the kind of person who would have to be literally pushed into doing anything new. I have nothing to suggest though I admire the spirit of your child. I am just glad I am learning these things from other parents for my own future.
    All the best, is what I will say 🙂

    • Nish

      @Reema: The only class I encouraged snubnose to join was the Art class. She was still a kid and little hesitant and nervous.

      She has always loved dance, and I knew it was just a matter of time before we enrolled her in one. However, she was the one to come up with the idea of ballet after seeing some show where Barbie did ballet.

      Her friends are in the other classes and so she wanted to join.

      All these classes are quality classes with quality teachers, so it’s hard to say no. If it was something like Bollywood dancing, it would have been easier to refuse :).

      I wouldn’t overschedule, it’s just way too much co-ordination headache 🙂

  • My suggestion would be not to curb her enthusiasm and try and figure out the best way to juggle all these things the best you can right now. Over the passage of time, she will begin developing genuine interest in one or more of these activities, and gradually she will drop out of the remaining.

    It is easy for me to sit here and type it out, but the you will have to figure it out for yourself now, won’t you 😀

    • Nish

      @Jairam: That’s very sensible advice. Thank you 🙂

  • Poor you! Hope the juggling work is under your control soon 🙂

  • I have no wisdom to add, but I admire the snubnose for so bravely taking things on. I have to be gently led to anything new, and even then I often chicken out.

    • Nish

      @Jenny: I am like you too Jenny. My mom tried to push me into extra-curricular activities but all I wanted to do was chill at home with a book.

      I don’t want to dampen snubnose’s enthusiasms, and most of the year it works fine, but year end, it becomes very hectic.

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