As you might remember from my “Extra Curricular Crackdown,” I don’t over-schedule the kids. We’re a family of six now, and if we treat each child like an only child (like when our oldest, Sam, did every baby class offered in Minneapolis) then we will all lose our minds.

When it comes to whether or not to sign up for an activity, I’m relaxed and reasonable. I’m all for our kids trying new things, but I don’t sign them up for classes and teams with the fear that our lives will collapse into worthlessness if we’re not attempting the same frenzied schedule as everyone else.

Here’s where I get considerably LESS reasonable: I feel a sense of dread and panic if I cannot attend Sam’s soccer and baseball games. Okay, exaggeration. I’m fine if I’m not the one there, but it’s not an overstatement to say that I arrange the entire week around making sure that someone is there (such as Bryan or one of Sam’s grandparents).

I’m lucky that Sam has only played on teams in the summer so far. (We have yet to find a school-year league that doesn’t play on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.) I’m also lucky that Rebecca (5) wants nothing to do with playing on a team as of now. Elissa is only 3. And although baby Nate obviously can’t play on a team yet or star in a recital, his early bedtime presents a huge obstacle to Sam’s evenings games.

Bryan thinks I’m acting crazy and has what he considers the perfect solution. I should drop Sam off at the field then bring the other three kids home so Nate can settle in his crib. (Nate is truly a wreck by 6pm.) Bryan, who works about 40 minutes from the field when there’s traffic, says he’ll get there by the end of the game to collect Sam. This, Bryan says, is what happens in most families where the kids play sports.

“But nobody will be there to watch him for most of the game,” I say every time.

Bryan doesn’t understand the problem. He insists that back in the day when he played sports, he didn’t always have someone there watching. He played for the love of the game, he says, not for the “audience.”

Seems to me times have changed. I agree they haven’t necessarily changed for the better, but the thought of Sam looking over at the sideline and seeing nobody there specifically for him makes me shudder. Many of these kids have parents who both work; still, one of the parents manages to get there.

I realize that what I’m calling a “problem” would be laughable to anyone with real problems like not being able to feed their children. Furthermore, my attitude about this whole thing goes against EVERY one of my parenting principles. I do not believe in raising kids to feel they’re the center of the universe. I applauded when I saw the video from the high school graduation ceremony where the commencement speaker spent twelve minutes giving the seniors an excellent explanation of this: Despite what you’ve been led to believe by your parents for most of your lives, you are not, in fact, special. It was brilliant. (Take the time to watch it. It’s incredible.)

Still, I can’t get over the idea of Sam being at his games “alone.” So basically I’ve ignored Bryan’s plan and hired my neighbor who is home from college for the summer to watch the other three kids on the two nights a week that Sam has games. This is getting pricey. Plus, she’s not always available.

Watching Sam play. I use the term “watching” loosely.

Here I am at last night’s game trying to keep everyone entertained until Bryan arrived. 

The girls were squirmy and the baby was hot and exhausted, making my middle-of-the-night situation worse than usual. So why didn’t I drop Sam off like Bryan suggested? Both Bryan and his dad eventually arrived at the game, but not until after halftime. Would Sam have survived if he’d played for 30 minutes without one of his parents or grandparents there?

Yes. Of course Sam would have survived. Would he rather have someone from his family there every time? Yes, he would. But is it good for him to always get his way? I know in my heart the answer is no. I know that bending the needs of the rest of the family to make sure Sam has us in attendance for the entire game is absolute insanity. So why can’t I stop making sure he’s never without a personal cheering section?

Most kids would like to have their parents at all the games. But it is GOOD for them? That is the question.

I look forward to your opinions and guidance.

On a different subject, would LOVE if you “LIKED” my new Facebook Page. I made a pretty cover photo. Does that entice you? Click here to find it, then like it!

Also, I’m excited to announce the winners of my internet-friend-NOW-real-friend Anne Greenwood Brown’s novel LIES BENEATH  from last week’s random drawing. The winners are Natalie Hartford and Karen Dukess. Email me at ninabadzinblog@gmail.com so I can send your mailing addresses to Anne. 

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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, a writing workshop leader at ModernWell in Minneapolis, ModernWell's book club host, and the friendship columnist at The HerStories Project. She reviews 50 books a year on her blog and writes essays, short stories, and articles for other sites and print magazines. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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