Column: The frantic choreography of extracurriculars

Published 5:59 pm Friday, November 22, 2019


Contributing writer

Parenting three elementary children requires one to merge the skills of a juggler, a choreographer, and a limousine service – and that’s just to manage one’s daily schedule. Sometimes I swear we cram a week’s worth of activity into a single afternoon.

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Tuesdays are particularly vicious right now, as my eldest child has back-to-back piano lessons and play practice. Last week we also added a visit to the school’s book fair to the afternoon schedule, just for fun. There is no better time to bring children into a room full of gorgeous new books than when you are running late for a busy evening. We managed to limit ourselves to two books apiece, then sprinted to our next engagement.

The piano lessons are located 20 minutes away from home, and I multi-task by bringing the dog along for his evening walk. The change of scenery and new smells make him particularly happy. And by happy, I mean deranged. We gallop along together, him tugging enthusiastically at the leash and me gamely attempting to walk at a comfortable pace.

Last Tuesday was the day of the inappropriately early snowfall and frigid temperatures, so my younger two children decided to entertain themselves by sledding in the piano teacher’s front yard. There was barely enough powder to cover the grass and they probably chewed up the lawn a bit with their antics, but the piano teacher is a kind soul and a good sport. 

Once they were thoroughly frozen, the kids clambered into our van, which I had restarted after returning from my walk so as to create a mobile warming station. The terms of the sledding agreement were that they would not enter the piano teacher’s home with their snowy boots and bodies after they finished playing. We had neglected to pack either appropriate outerwear or a change of clothing for the sledding expedition, so they stripped down to their underwear and curled up with the dog in the back seat to enjoy their new books.

Then it was on to play practice, as my eldest is appearing in this year’s holiday production at West T Hill Community Theatre. (Spoiler alert: I hear the three lines uttered by Laura/Sheep really hold Act I together.) No time for dinner on a night like that, but we’d planned ahead and my young thespian ate a packed supper in the car while we drove. 

I pitched her out the door at the theater, having arranged for a ride home with another cast member, then headed to our house to feed the other two and get them ready for bed. Some nights we make wholesome from-scratch meals that conform to best practices in childhood nutrition. And some nights we eat frozen corndogs and Cheerios. You can probably guess which kind of night it was. 

Still high on the fun of sledding in 1/2” of snow, my younger two headed for the bathtub after dinner. The fact that they each had a grape lollipop in their mouths for the duration of bath time might cost me some points in the Mom of the Year contest, but parenting is 80% survival and 20% second-guessing your decisions. At least they were in the tub. There might even have been soap involved.

Listen, y’all. We don’t do all that many extracurricular activities. I swear we don’t. But we still end up with nights like that, with a car piled high with backpacks, music books, sleds, and soggy mittens as we careen through the evening at breakneck speed. Fortunately, they are the exception not the norm. There are only so many corndogs that I can bring myself to serve.