Monday, June 4, 2007

Overscheduled

Back in the heyday of my rampant social anxiety, which peaked in the years after grad school and before Quinn was born, I spent a lot of time at home. And if I left the house, it was often alone or with a dog or an infant, which is close enough to alone to qualify. I would go see friends with Alex, but the thought of being alone with a group of people or, God forbid, ONE person was enough to induce small-scale panic in my head.

I would never have taken my kids somewhere where it would be expected that I would talk to strangers (at parks I mostly kept to myself), I would rarely call someone to do something with (and if I did, there was often a multi-day lead-up to the phone call). And I would certainly have never called someone other than my mom or sister just to chat.

Caller ID, email, and the Internet have helped a lot with my social anxiety. Anxiety medication helped even more. Now I have a pretty busy social life, a pretty busy work life, and a full slate of people to call on the phone just to chat. Who am I?

All this leads me to a pretty big lifestyle change. Anxiety-ridden Stimey was always excited (and freaked out) when she had more that 2 or 3 activities scheduled per week. And that Stimey was not good at spontaneously adding activities to her schedule. She had to be prepared to be "on", something that was really tough for that version of Stimey.

Present-day Stimey would be shocked and addled with boredom if she had only 2 or 3 activities planned for a week. But here's the thing. Present-day Stimey has an entourage of three little boys, who are just as overscheduled as she is.

I'm not talking about the "superkids" overscheduled kid thing here. It's not like I'm dragging them to piano lesson after soccer lesson and before charm school (and no judgment if that's what your kids do—to each her own), but the amount of time they have to hang out in their house by themselves and play with only brothers and parents is limited.

Someone has school every morning, and the others usually go somewhere else during school sessions. After school we hang out on the playground to play or picnic and often don't get home until 2 or 2:30. And fairly regularly there is some sort of afternoon activity as well: someone comes over for dinner, another kid comes over for a playdate, we go somewhere else for a playdate. Or we'll go to a park or run errands. Sometimes I'll try to figure out a good time to bring one of Sam's friends home for a playdate and I won't be able to find a free afternoon for two weeks.

I feel that most of these activities are quality endeavors. They're hanging out with other kids or playing outside, but it will amaze me sometimes that I can leave the house at 9 a.m. and not be back until 4 p.m. Of course there are also days like today when Quinn and I came home while Sam and Jack were at school and we stayed at home all day except for a quick trip out for three kiddie haircuts (Oh my God, they're cute!).

But I don't understand how this happened to me. I just turned my calendar over to June and although it is filled up with camp sessions and playdates here and there, my goal for the month is to keep it mellow. We have seven million toys here—this month we're going to play with them. We're going to swim in the wading pool. We're going to climb our climbing tree. We're going to paint and play with playdough. We're going to ride bikes and play basketball.

Don't get me wrong, we're still going to invite you over to play, but you won't be here more than we are.

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