Underage and Overscheduled

Jun 30, 2008

The scene: My family yoga class, 4:30 pm on a Thursday.
A six-year-old girl and her mom rush in a few minutes late, the daughter eating pizza while shedding her shoes. Mom explained that dinner has to be now (between school and yoga), because after this they go straight to gymnastics. As we’re winding down, approaching savasana, mom repeatedly checks the time. The child picks up on this and fidgets through the final resting pose. They've come to yoga, all right, but I'm not sure they've done any YOGA.

I'd rather see a child make yoga an occasional, enjoyable practice at home than try to cram a class into an already overscheduled week. Acknowledging reality, though, means that not many of us are going to spend the long summer days just walking in the woods with our kids--there are activities galore, and most of us feel the pressure to join. The most well-intentioned parents (and I'm including myself here) end up trying to pack it all in, for lots of reasons: trying to enrich the heck out of our kids, or because we're just plain going stir crazy (the kids and I were all fired up to stay in our pajamas the first day of summer vacation, no school to rush off to, just a lazy day at home...then by 3 pm I was reaching for the phone and calling summer camps.) And some of us think we can do it all and it will be great--magical thinking, my friend Renell and I call it. As in, sure, we can pick the kids up from camp, get in some dinner--you bring the hummus and I'll bring whole grain bagels--and still make it to the concert in the park, no problem! So the question is how to maintain some sanity within the reality of our appointment-driven lives.

Mindfulness may be a tired mantra, but just about every family can stand to hear it again and again. In our house, not over-scheduling and being mindful of the moment we're in is one of our most important principles, and yet the most violated. But I keep plugging away at it regardless with my busy, energetic family. The yoga here is not about teaching your child to execute a perfect tree pose, or signing up for a family yoga class because it's a cool activity to do. It's the awareness, the mindfulness that we attempt to maintain under the most hectic of circumstances. I'm hoping what my daughter takes from her yoga with me is not so much downward dog pose as how to take deep breaths and calm herself when we're stuck in traffic and extremely late for her kindergarten graduation.

Here are a few ways to help stay mindful (and sane) during a day packed with activities:

--If you're eating on the run, plan ahead and throw some healthy, portable snacks in your bag--apples, grapes, whole grain crackers, and plenty of water--so you're not tempted to stop for junk food.
--Even if you only have a few minutes to eat, take a moment to be grateful about the food you have, maybe speculating with your child about the journey it took to get to your plate.  

--If your day of camps/classes/lessons keeps you all inside way more than you'd like on a gorgeous summer day, try enjoying what little time you have outside by actively observing the nature around you: Talk about what you notice--do you hear that bird? What does the air feel like on your skin right now? What do you see in the sky?

--In the brief outside time you have, try imitating the natural elements around you: take tree pose, for example, and when you have your balance, see if you can be that tree: gently sway in the wind as you feel the breeze, and grow your strong branches up toward the sun!


10 Jul 2008, 12:20
What a wonderful post!
My kids have Autism, which means they are quite busy. They have school and in-home therapy, and we are creating picture schedules for them. But they also have their own ways of looking at the world, which remind their parents to stop every once in a while and enjoy a different perspective. Kids need the freedom sometimes to just be kids. To let their imaginations take the lead and go with it.

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