This article was first published in the East Valley Tribune
“I like baseball,” exclaimed Nathan Wade, 10, a smile encompassing his entire face.
When he was 7, Nathan had a very full schedule, participating in basketball, soccer and karate, in addition to baseball. With his parents, Nathan made decisions about his time and what activities he would enjoy, in addition to his studies at Shumway Leadership Academy in the Chandler School District. Mimi and Michael Wade, and Nathan plus his three siblings, “Team Wade,” work out their schedules.
Mimi serves on the National Little League board in Chandler. Little League requires weekly meetings during baseball season, but at least monthly in the off-season.
“I take the kids with me to the Little League events to learn that volunteering is good and that everything doesn’t magically happen, but takes work,” she said.
With four children, and only two of them in school full time, Mimi’s time is at a premium. Her husband, Michael, works full time as a credit union manager. His family time can be squeezed, but he helps with math and reads to the children. On Sundays, they all take a breather, sometimes relaxing by watching movies. Her extended family helps out when their schedules are pinched and kids are sick.
Although she likes the “busy-ness,” Mimi admits that she doesn’t get a lot of time to herself and that date nights with Michael are occasional.
Roxanna Teeling, a licensed master social worker, provides psychotherapy services specializing in childhood trauma, teens, women and “safe haven therapy.” When families don’t handle the stress of busy schedules and expectations collide, she provides a place where the issues can be examined and problems solved.
“Children don’t want to disappoint their parents,” Teeling said, “and parents don’t want to be judged and seen as a bad parent. If parents don’t perceive that they are providing enough opportunities for their children, they fear other people’s judgment.”
She said competitive parenting with children pushed to be ready for “Yale by eighth grade” can create a driven agenda. Children have little down time to experience a normal childhood.
When families see her, the oversubscribed children’s agendas are often the focus. Children are depressed, not sleeping well and anxious. Teeling explores what is causing the problems, often discovering that the children aren’t enjoying their many activities. The children don’t want to disappoint their parents, but when they just can’t muster enthusiasm, don’t sleep well and schoolwork suffers, new approaches are suggested.
“Opening the lines of honest communication, creating a new schedule and working out compromises are needed,” Teeling said. Ironing out family situations can take months.
Children need to feel “They are OK and accepted for who they are,” Teeling said.
The Williams family has already faced the overscheduling issues with Zereoue, 14, who attends Kyrene’s Akimel A-Al Middle School, and Eriq, 15, a sophomore at Tempe Union’s Mountain Pointe High.
Kim Williams, a Maricopa special ed teacher, needed to convince Zereoue to say “no.” He is currently focusing on basketball, but is on the track and football teams, the student council, vice president of Akimel Middle School and the National Junior Honor Society. He also takes advanced language arts and math classes.
She relies on carpools with friends to keep her sons on time at events. With her husband, Rick, away for extended work projects, she handles the scheduling. She balances their lives with family time, personal time and rare “mental health days.”
“Sometimes we need to refocus,” Williams said.
And Zereoue and Eriq know if life gets too crowded, she’ll work with them to decide what they’re willing to give up. Eriq recently started track after being recruited by a school coach. Football is his other activity.
“Eriq’s more a homebody who likes video games, watching TV, especially ‘Scorpion.’ He takes advanced math classes,” Williams said.
Williams tempers her sons’ activities because she was the one who needed to say no earlier in her life. She was exhausted.
The Wade and Williams families are working with their children to make manageable schedules. Both moms want more time to themselves and date nights with their spouses.
Laughing, Mimi Wade said, “I alerted my husband that I’d be sleeping more during the day when the kids are all in school.”