The perils of the overscheduled parent

For The Baltimore Sun

I hustled into the Merritt Athletic Club with my three children in tow, pleased that we were on time(ish) for the second birthday party and fourth kid-related event of the day.

My plan was to drop off the twin boys and take my kindergartner with me to pick up beverages and snacks for the guests coming to our house later that night. I was checking to-dos off my Saturday list – soccer game, take daughter to friend’s house for birthday party number one, special event for boys at Center Stage, back to pick up daughter by 2:30, 3 p.m. pool party for boys, check, check, check, check. And I was feeling smug.

Until I introduced myself to the guest of honor’s father and mentioned that his son had played at our house before. He looked confused; this was ringing no bells. “It’s OK,” I said, feeling gracious. “The second grade just keeps growing. Now there are three classes! How can anyone keep up?”

The dad looked still more confused. “Well, yes,” he stammered, “that’s why we invited all the kindergarten classes. We don’t know all the kids, of course, but we figured they all play together at recess.”

Kindergarten? This was a party for a child in my sons’ grade. Why was this poor man talking about kindergartners? Was he loopy from the chlorine?

As it turned out, I was the confused one. While my boys splashed around in the water – six inches taller than the other children in the pool – I stood on the deck with my daughter (who had no swimsuit with her) and slowly realized that these were her friends, her grade group. The invitation was for her, not them.

Such are the days of our weekend lives -- every Saturday and Sunday jam-packed with activities, athletics, obligations, enrichments. It’s a miracle that that’s the first time I mixed up whose birthday party was whose. But I’m sure it won’t be the only time. There’s no room to breathe on the weekends, much less sort out tiny things like who is actually invited somewhere. Take a kid, any kid! Oh, you didn’t account for the hungry twin boys when you planned this shindig? Think of it as two for the price of one!

On a parent-focused Facebook group of which I’m a member, one friend lamented: How the hell do you get through weekends without being utterly exhausted? Does anyone have good life hacks for the perfectly balanced weekend? How do you balance soccer games, birthday parties, homework, hosting friends, doing errands, cooking, etc. ... I mean, honestly I'm less tired after a day in the office than after a weekend day.

Truer words have never been typed. When I was child-free, I longed for the weekends. These days, I look forward to humdrum staff meetings, the calm, common vocabulary of polite emails (“Hey, just circling back…” “Your thoughts?”), and civilized Potbelly lunches eaten over my keyboard – alone.

I know the weekend schedule is our doing, so we have no one to blame but ourselves. But I’m honestly not sure what the alternative to this mad rush would be. When I was a kid, we played outside on weekends with neighborhood friends, and watched all the TV we wanted. There are no children playing in my neighborhood – unless they’re on scheduled play dates, closely supervised inside the home – and letting your children watch too much TV is viewed by some as akin to giving them super glue to huff.

And truthfully, on the rare occasion that we do have a relatively relaxed weekend and choose to let the children free-range it, it doesn’t take long before all the bickering, tattling, snack-demanding and sofa-cushion-destroying has us headed for something – anything – to do out-of-the house.

There’s no winning, people! In, out; out, in – it’s all a circus and the ringmaster is you!

Luckily, at least, we crazed and overscheduled parents are all in this together.

At the pool party, as I apologized over and over to the guest of honor’s parents, the mother recognized my embarrassment and took my hand in hers.

“Don’t worry,” she said, as she no doubt congratulated herself for making extra goody bags, just in case. “I thought the birthday party was tomorrow.”

Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who works as vice president at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 7-year-old sons, a 5-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at tanika@thehatchergroup.com. Her column appears monthly.

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