When Kids are Too Busy

A few years ago, I looked at Kgirl’s schedule and realized that I had tilted too far into the land of formal schoolwork and activities. There was no room in her schedule for her.

All the things that she used to do – playing outside, making up stories and songs, even crafting, were gone.  There wasn’t time in her schedule for thinking, playing, and creating.

For the first month of that school year, she was dilligently working through her list and responsibilities, meeting the expectations, but inside she was dying. No more sparkly Kgirl.

As soon as I realized what had happened, she and I worked out a new schedule, one with plenty of unscheduled time for her to be her.  And I thought I had learned my lesson.

J building a robot for robotics classBut this year, at the age of 13, J decided to take two high school classes, totaling 3.5 high school credits. I had hoped he would take at least one class this year, so that he could get that experience, but didn’t require it.

But when J decided to take the classes, I made it happen. They were worthwhile classes – Robotics and Biblical WorldView. And he really wanted to take them.

So he started the school year, with classes, reading, homework.He worked out his schedule and deadlines, getting into the groove.

But between work required for the two classes, and the activities that he participates in (e.g., boy scouts, chess club, and youth group), J had no time.

All the cool projects he had been working on before classes started – the book he was writing, the game he was designing, the lightning experiment – all stopped. Even reading for pleasure stopped. He was tired, burdened, and on deadline days couldn’t handle any extra requests without dissolving into frustration, anger, or tears.

Yes, he was doing the work, and doing it well. But, inside he was being stretched and stretched and stretched – to the point of almost breaking. And there was little joy in it.

So we gave him the option to drop a class. Yes, we had paid for it. Yes, it sounded cool that my 13 yo was taking high school classes. Yes, he was doing excellent work. But it wasn’t cool that *he* was disappearing in the process. It’s a good thing as individuals to be stretched. It is not a good thing to be stretched too far.

Kids – and adults – need time to think, create, and ponder the world and their ideas. They need time to play and hang out, and talk and listen.  They need time to explore their own interests, think about things that are important to them, have time to be with themselves, with family, and friends, without the constant loom of a deadline or the next activities upon them.

J, relaxing in the park, listening to an audio book

In the two weeks since J dropped his Biblical WorldView class, he’s  resurfaced, back to my thinking, laughing, delightful young man.  He’s read books for fun again, played games,   hung out with his siblings, and decompressed from the stesses of the last two months.

This last week, he called me over to see his latest additions to his book; he’s brought me the drawings of his game interface; and he’s started talking about ideas again. He’s slowly returning to the activities of his heart.

And he’s even been talking to me about some of the things he was learning in Biblical WorldView – now that he’s had time to think about, absorb, and process what he had read and discussed in class.

Two days a week are still tied up with Robotics class, which ends in December, and he still has his activities, but now he likes the balance, he likes himself and his world again. And that’s important – critically important.

Confident, competent, thinking people are those who know themselves, know their minds, and know that they are able to accomplish whatever they put their minds to. And that comes from spending time with oneself, knowing oneself, and liking who you are.

Kids need time to learn about who they are and what is important to them. They need time to process the world and determine what they think about it and where they fit in it. That is important.


Want to get to know J a little more?  Here’s a couple other recent posts you might like:

This post is linked up at MOBSociety’s Let’s Hear It for The Boys link-up

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