As I said in an earlier article (Career Training for a PracticalDad), when you move to more than one child, your most critical skill is time and logistics management.
Almost every parent wants to see their child experience new things and find their niche. And while this is entirely understandable, it gets dicey when more than one child is introduced into the scheduling mix. It’s at that moment that the parent has to consider overload for both the child and the family. Does the child really need another activity? What’s the impact on the other members of the family, especially younger siblings? Does it ruin the ability of the family to have a regular mealtime, one of the true necessities for a successful family?
While we live in a digital and wireless age, the most crucial element is the old-fashioned family calendar clearly displayed in a prominent place. The PracticalDad preference is the 18×24 inch wall variety available in any office supply store and hung on the kitchen wall. This is clearly an analog method in a digital age, but it serves several purposes.
- It teaches the kids how to read a calendar.
- When they’re older, it relieves you of having to constantly open the daytimer or Blackberry/Palm when they ask whether they can go to the mall, game, friend’s house, etc. They can at least see if something else is happening before even coming to you.
- It visibly displays for them that there are others in the family and that these others also have lives, an important lesson in the typically self-obsessed child and teen. They might not appreciate it, but at least they can see it.
- It introduces them into the world of scheduling and learning how to make use of blocks of time.
When it comes to calendars, the PracticalDad has come to prefer the calendar based upon the academic year – September through August – since the kids’ activities usually revolve around school.
So what doe the PracticalDad do?
- Starting in July, purchase an academic year calendar at an office supply store and then begin to review the months. When is Christmas? When is Easter? Even if you aren’t religious, many school systems base their Winter and Spring vacation periods around these holidays.
- When the school district or preschool sends home a calendar at the beginning of the year, start the first review by getting the in-service days and holidays marked on the family calendar.
- If kids are in different schools, i.e. elementary vs middle/high school, then use the child’s initial after the family calendar entry. Different levels can have different in-service dates and dismissals.
- When the child starts to involve himself in various activities, obtain the appropriate sport/activity calendar and make those entries on the calendar as well.
- Keep a separate folder in the kitchen or office in which to hold all of the various activity calendars, and refer to it if there are discrepancies.
- Some PracticalDads might prefer to use a different color pen or marker for each child or activity, but this PracticalDad found that his markers developed legs and marched off to various coloring and school projects. Some things aren’t worth the fight.
- If you find that a child has too many competing activites for a particular night, then you have to consider whether the child is overscheduled. Kids do have a purpose in "goofing off" or "vegging out" and minimizing this time can be detrimental. It also highly complicates your life and doesn’t teach the philosophy of fully committing to an activity.
- Plan your upcoming week each Saturday or Sunday and consider meal planning, travel logistics and arrangements for other children if necessary. Nothing ticks this PracticalDad more than to have a phone call requesting last minute babysitting services from the PracticalDad’s daughter.
- When a child asks if he can do something, then take him to the calendar to look at it. As he ages, you can simply ask what’s on the calendar and let him then come back to you.
This PracticalDad has found it helpful to keep calendars for a year after it’s out of date. There are instances in which it’s helpful to review it in order to determine how something has changed or when an activity occurred.
And if there are other reasons than schedule to prevent a child from doing something, then you can take up that discussion. And you know, it’s actually alright if you simply tell the kid not today, I need a break from the running. They’ll appreciate it eventually.