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The Mad Dash Of After-School Activities

As I rush out the door from work, my mind is still focused on the pile of papers on my desk that I didn’t get to today. I make a mad dash to the daycare to pick up my 3-year-old. I get home to a cranky, starving 5-year-old, and start dinner immediately. We have 23 minutes to cook, eat, and get out the door for music class. Or is it soccer today? Or Karate?

If you have school aged kids, you can probably relate to our evening routine. While we balance work and family life, we try to ensure our kids are getting some extra-curricular activities. They seem to have boundless amounts of energy and they learn new skills so quickly that it makes sense to get them involved in something. But I also wrestle with questions like how much is too much (or too little)? And what do I enroll my kids in? What will their interests be? How much time can we afford? What if I spend all this money and he hates it in two months?

I like to think I’ve made some good choices in enrolling my schoolager in a sport and music. Activity options are hard to narrow down but once you start digging, many places offer a 3 month trial – ideal for your indecisive child. I was also impressed with no-commitment first classes. When looking for an after school interest, ask about these incentives!

What I wasn’t prepared for was how little time there would be between school and activity schedules. Is it me or does time speed up exponentially when you’re in a rush? I stress over being late and rushing my kids to eat a quickly-thrown-together, not-so-healthy meal. I’m not ashamed to say that some days, a drive-thru fast food meal is all I can muster!

And after all that hustle and bustle, I’ll arrive to his class, yank off his coat, and toss him into the room where the kids of the more organized and less stressed parents have already settled in. I then try to catch my breath in the “parent section”, envious that others had a chance to pick up a warm coffee. I will sometimes engage in the pity party of how much work parenting is but more often than not, I take the time to reflect on my day, sort through my unread emails, or write this monthly column.

Today, at Karate class, I find myself wondering if all this is worth it. I’m exhausted and find it challenging to let go of my daily stressors. I look up from my phone to see my son completely engaged in his lesson. He idolizes his Sensei and is very motivated to follow today’s lesson. I watch him giggle, learn to do a proper push up, and grunt-kick in the air. At one point, he looks over at me through the glass and our eyes meet for a quick second. The grin that flashed on his face spoke to me loud and clear. At the end of the session, he couldn’t wait to share his experience with me. “Daddy, did you see how high I can kick now?” As he keeps talking, my stress slowly melts away and all doubts are gone.

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.

 

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