The After School Races

by Brenda Maas

Now that school is back in full swing, I, like most other parents in the area, am fully entrenched in the “After School Races.” Basically, once the final school bell rings, I race from one activity to the next, shuttling children while trying to catch up on their day and throwing a snack into the backseat. I’ve often thought that the After School Races would make a great reality show—don’t bring enough healthy snacks for growing, active children or get one to soccer practice late, and you could be voted out of the mini-van.

     While I always swore that I wouldn’t be “one of those crazy parents,” here I am, right in the midst of the chaos that outsiders often criticize without trying to understand. But it’s simple math—one activity for each child:  1 x 3 = 3. Add church classes and the on-going piano lessons:  sum  > one mom. Even with my husband running the pick-up circuit after work, we are still in the “lesser than” category.

     Brett and I continually have discussions about keeping things in check and not placing unrealistic demands on our children’s time and energy—we want them to just be kids, first and foremost. We try to balance that with the outstanding benefits of exercise, culture and spirituality in keeping our kids away from drugs and all the other bad things lurking out there.

     Yet, I find myself driving through a fast food joint between #1’s swim practice and soccer practice after dropping #2 at football and pacifying #3 that his flag team has not yet started. I’m worried about getting homework done (is it math night again?) and hopeful that my husband actually serves veggies to his charges.

     As I stare through my windshield, thinking about The Races, I wonder, “How did this happen to me?”

     When the boys were younger and at home all day, every day, I fantasized about the days when they would be older, able to do more for themselves and my job as parent would be easier. The funny thing about fantasies is that they never really come true.

     Somewhere along the line, I gave up on living in the fantastical future and fell in sync with my motherhood role. And, I realized that an elemental piece of our marital relationship—humor—was also integral to our parenting. Although every single aspect of raising three rambunctious boys into responsible, self-sufficient citizens is very, very serious, I learned to lighten it with humor—I figured out how to not over-parent. Or, as author Richard Carlson puts it, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

     One friend, who also visits her grandmother nearly every day of the week while managing her own family of four recently told me, “For every thing that I choose to do, there’s one that doesn’t get chosen.”

     I’ve been thinking about that—I mean really, really thinking about it. And it’s true. Everything is choice. No one points a gun at me and demands, “You must enroll your child in every activity possible and be happy dealing with it every day!”

     These are the choices that we—our family—make and, for the most part, we enjoy them. I know that every Saturday this fall instead of sleeping in (my fantasy) or going hunting (Brett’s fantasy) we will prepare for, attend, and cheer on one soccer game, one flag football game and one tackle football game. We will feed those who are hungry, hug those who are sad and congratulate those who are high on athletic adrenaline. And, for the most part we really do enjoy it—I get as jazzed as the kids when their team scores. In fact, I don’t think we would have it any other way.

     And, I can always sleep in and have a clean, organized house in another ten years or so. Just don’t look inside the closets. I would likely get voted out of the mini-van.  SFM

Brenda Maas lives in Billings with her husband and three boys.