I come from a family of five kids. Depending on whom you talk to, that is either a handful or nothing. Despite what people might think though, growing up with three boys and two girls, countless pets, a crazy grandmother, and friends and cousins that would randomly come over and end up staying, my house was always a little chaotic to say the least. Looking around the table at my brothers and sister the other week for my parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary though I started to wonder, how did we all turn out so well? Not to toot my own horn, but I’m just a little surprised with so many of us, you’d think at least ONE of us would have gotten into trouble along the way, especially with all of our unique challenges. No, we’re not perfect. No family is, but all of us are well-educated, hard working, family oriented, kind people with no major hiccups in our backgrounds. I’m extremely proud of all the accomplishments of my brothers and sister – graduations, weddings, job promotions, business developments, and we’re still going. How did my mom do it? How did she not let at least one of us slip through the cracks?
The answer is, she kept us all extremely busy growing up. We all always had a full schedule. There honestly just wasn’t enough time to ever get into major trouble, even though we tried. When my brother’s high school crush would call him on our house phone (back when people had house phones), my sister and I would listen in as he begged her to stop calling him at home because our mom would make him swim more. “You obviously are not busy enough if you have time for a girlfriend”, she would say. “I can’t swim anymore, I’ll die! You have to stop calling me at night” my brother would plea over the phone. That relationship didn’t last too long. If we ever tried to smoke or drink growing up we would pay for it on the field or in the pool the next day. Somehow my mom always seemed to know if we were doing something wrong even though we thought we were sneaky, and would make us swim extra laps or run extra miles. Between swimming, school, after-school sports, extra-curricular art classes, more swimming, and the massive amounts of homework my teachers would pile on me, I fell asleep almost every night under my dining room table on top of a school book, only to be dragged out by my feet and carried to bed by my dad. To say my mom pushed us hard is probably an understatement. But she was always there in everything we did, and even though I resented her sometimes, looking back I think, she was really smart. She never let me hang out with my friends at the mall alone, she never let me loiter around and do nothing. She knew that’s when kids get into trouble. So she kept me and all of us busy all the time, even if that meant living out of her car, driving to 5 different games or competitions every weekend, giving up sleep so she could finish our homework for us (shhh!;) She knew every aspect of our lives, and nothing ever came as a surprise to her. She made sure we were successful because honestly, there was no other option.
Today every family seems to have a full schedule. Between school, homework, sports, after-school programs, weekend events, and vacations, just trying to keep up with family-life can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task, not just for the parents, but for kids as well. One can see how parents today might be concerned that they are pushing their kids too hard. While everyone has their own challenges, and there has to be a balance to everyone’s schedule, I feel from my own experience it is better to always stay a little busier than not busy enough. Kids who have a full schedule of school, sports, and arts become better at communication and making friends, they manage their time better, and are more disciplined. They are better equipped to face future challenges, and less likely to get into trouble or fall into pitfalls. It also gives them a closer relationship with their parents since usually it is the parents who enable them to do so many things and need to be involved. I know it can seem overwhelming sometimes, but looking around the table at my happy, healthy, and successful brothers and sister, and then looking at my parents, I promise you the pay off is worth it.