It started when our piano teacher quit on us a couple of months back. My 5-year-old son had been taking lessons for well over a year in addition to a host of other activities–soccer on the weekends and swimming lessons during the week, to name a few. But it just so happened that when I got the call about piano, we’d already wrapped up the soccer season and decided not to sign up for more swimming lessons, figuring my son would be taught at camp.
I began making calls to find a new teacher, which is easier said than done when you’re dealing with a 5-year-old. Most of the local teachers I found weren’t willing to work with kids that young, and the one recommended teacher I did find wasn’t taking new students.
Realizing that piano was going to be a no-go for the foreseeable future, and that soccer and swim were off the table for the time being, I immediately sought to fill our schedule with other things.
I called a couple of local cooking schools (my son loves to assist in the kitchen and is fairly capable for a child his age)–one only started at age 6, and another had evening classes only. I took my son for a trial karate class at a school our friends kids’ attend, and while he liked it, and I liked the idea of him doing some sort of physical activity (as opposed to burning off his energy by running around the house like a maniac), once again, the class schedule–mostly evenings at 6:00 or later–just didn’t work.
I even called up a local soccer place that said they’d let him play with the slightly older kids since he’s right on the cusp. The problem? Games start at 7:00 p.m.. (Side note: What’s up with all these evening activities for younger kids? Aren’t most 4 to 7-year-olds eating dinner or winding down between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., as opposed to attending or just getting home from someplace?)
Frustrated, I decided to take a break from my search, figuring I’d start looking again at some point during the spring. And so for the past month and change, my son has done nothing during the week other than attend preschool, come home, and hang out. And you know what? He’s been more than content with that routine.
In fact, it dawned on me that while my son enjoyed his various activities back when they were part of our schedule, it gave him very little downtime to just…be. My son goes to preschool for five hours a day, four days a week. With our old schedule, I’d whisk him home every Tuesday and plant him in front of a piano without so much as a quick afternoon snack. On Wednesdays, I’d cart him off to swim, and between the actual lesson and 20-minute drive each way, he’d have practically no time to himself before dinner.
The past few weeks have helped me realize that my son doesn’t need a host of activities to stay occupied. He’s more than happy to come home from school and play with his toys, build things, run around with his little sisters, read his books, and–dare I say it–watch his 30 minutes of TV.
Sometimes I’ll invite him into the kitchen with me to prepare dinner. Other times I’ll sit with him and play board games as his sisters allow. (Even though my 2-year-old twins do a good job of entertaining each other, it’s not always easy to escape to the corner of the play room for an uninterrupted game of Candy Land.) And though I’d still like for him to pick back up on piano lessons at some point right now I’m okay with keeping our schedule open, flexible, and far less rushed than it used to be.
Once the weather gets warm, we’ll hopefully have more opportunities to play outdoors and kick the soccer ball around ourselves. And to help channel my son’s energy and need for physical activity, my husband and I have gotten into the habit of holding nightly dance parties in our living room after dinner. It’s something my kids (and us parents) can all do together, and we don’t have to deal with the hassle of driving back and forth from activities.
Though there are times when my son gets bored, for the most part, he’s happy, and so I’m happy. After all, there’s something to be said about just letting kids be kids.