I've never been one of those parents who feels the need to fill every hour of my children's days with scheduled activities. We all like our downtime — or at least I do when I don't have to share it with two small, overly dependent kids — and I think it's a necessary part of a child's development. "You're bored? Use your imagination, and think of something fun to do!" I like to say to them, despite the fact that, most days, their imaginations seem to be limited to destroying our house and begging for their iPads.
Somehow, despite my anti-overscheduling stance, my 6-year-old daughter has participated in Girl Scouts, ballet, hip-hop, swimming, musical theater, karate, art, acting, science, and Spanish classes in her short life, and I have happily written check after check for each new activity. Her 3-year-old brother's activity roster? Well, I did sign him up for a swimming class a year or so ago, then decided to drop out because he was annoying and I hate smelling like chlorine. Other than that, his only activity is coming with me to drop off his sister at her classes, then searching for the nearest chocolate-stocked vending machine or child-size urinal (enriching!).
If you're like me, your first child's extracurricular life is totally different than their sibling's. Here's how.
First Kid: Maybe they're no longer a newborn, but they're definitely not walking yet. Whether it's a music class, a baby movement class, or a swimming lesson, you suffer through each session happily. Of course, you know there's not a chance your child will ever remember it, but you're still supremely confident the class is important to their development.
Second Kid: Around age 2, you feel momentarily guilty that you've yet to register them for a single class, then you forget about it 30 seconds later.
First Kid: Each season, you sit your child down and talk about what activities they'd like to participate in, encouraging them to stick with those that they're currently excelling in and to try new things that you're sure they'll be equally awesome at. Why wouldn't your kid be a champion baseball player and a musical savant?
Second Kid: You figure they're getting a pretty good idea of what's out there from watching your older kid, and if they like something enough, they'll ask you if they can do it, too. Until then, who has time to drive two kids around?
First Kid: You're happy to go in that pool with your little one, despite the freezing, dirty dressing rooms and the amount of baby pee you know that pool contains. You're also that parent who always chooses to observe dance class, stay for soccer practice, and be the first in line for pick-up at classes that don't allow parents, hoping you'll be able to peek in unnoticed for the last few minutes.
Second Kid: If an activity requires you to do more than drop your kid off at the beginning and pick him up at the end, it's not happening. Even that's stretching it.
First Kid: A dance class that meets 10 times and requires special shoes, tights, and leotards at a total cost of $100 (on top of the registration fee)? That's cool with you. Thousands of dollars for an elite gymnastics program? She could be an Olympian! Fifty bucks an hour for horseback riding lessons? Why not?! You'll spare no expense to make your child happy and help her unlock her true potential.
Second Kid: Unless you have all the gear you need from her older sibling, the only classes she's taking need to be cost efficient (also known as cheap). After all, you've pretty much drained your bank account thanks to those freaking horseback riding lessons.
First Kid: You just don't feel comfortable letting your little angel drive with anyone other than you, so you're more than happy to do pick up and drop off (and maybe even linger in the hallway while class is in session). You wouldn't want him to think you're not totally there to support him!
Second Kid: Unless a carpool-friendly neighbor's kid is also doing the same activity, signing up is going to take some serious thinking about.
First Kid: You don't want her to be a quitter, and beyond that, she was an absolutely phenomenal flute player/tap dancer/goalie, so you push her to stick with it, even when she's obviously less than enthused about the activity. You're raising a winner!
Second Kid: Don't like soccer, gymnastics, or piano lessons? That's fine with me, kid. I could really use the extra time and money.