The Universe gave Number 4 and me a big old Cher-In-Moonstruck slap in the face today.
I didn’t think I needed a slap in the face.
Because I have gotten much better at simplifying my life in the last year or so.
It’s mainly in the athletic area that I’ve had an epiphany.
My kids just can’t do every sport and activity they want to do.
I wish they could.
But they can’t. Especially when you have five kids at home between the ages of six and twelve.
Imagine if all five of them were doing two sports or activities simultaneously.
That would mean the potential for ten different things happening at ten different times every week. Ten practices/games/meets/whatever.
Nope. That’s just not possible for us. It’s one of the downfalls of having a large family. Your kids can’t participate in as many things as other kids from smaller families might be able to.
So it took me a few years, but I finally got it. We have scaled way back, and I have realized and embraced the fact that every season does not need to be filled with a sport.
Quitting coaching in April so that I could be available to my kids in the evenings has further decluttered my life so that I can see things with a little bit more clarity.
I thought I had really gotten it.
And then today happened.
I realize I still have some work to do where Number 4 is concerned.
I struggle in this department because she’s talented in so many areas and she wants to do all the things.
And I feel bad telling her she can’t do them all.
She’s not your typical eleven-year-old. She’s more mature and assertive and self-assured and proactive than most girls her age.
So when she asks to take on just one more thing, I find myself letting her. Because she can handle more than the average kid can.
She can juggle more than most adults can.
But at what cost?
Even if your eleven or twelve or thirteen-year-old demonstrates they are above average in the juggling department, they are still kids.
And as parents it is our repsonsibility not only to guide them but also to manage them.
I mismanaged Number 4 these last couple months.
That resulted in her being in chorus and band in school, being on the swim team, being on the middle school track team, and performing in a play.
And as fate would have it, this weekend was both her play and middle school track championships.
The track meet was in the morning today, and the last performance of the play was at 2:00 this afternoon.
She wanted to do both.
I wanted her to be able to do both.
So she went to championships this morning. She ran the 4 x800 relay and then about an hour and a half later she ran the mile. Then we rushed her back to the car so we could drive back 45 minutes back home to change and get to the play an hour later than she was supposed to get there, but still before the play began.
And Number 4 either didn’t drink enough or didn’t eat enough or, more likely, just did way too much this weekend, and when she got to the car she was writhing in pain from a stabbing headache and had lost all the color in her face.
She cried almost the whole way back home. She was definitely in pain, and the play was in an hour and fifteen minutes and I was panicking and she was sick and stressing.
I put her on the couch and got her some orange juice and told her I’d be right back because Number 3 had walked Number 6 down to his baseball game that was just down the road from our house, and I wanted to make sure they had made it there.
And fifteen minutes later when I got back home, and came into the house to check on Number 4, she was not on the couch where I had left her. I called her name.
“I’m up here!” she said. “I puked and now I feel better and I’m taking a bath! I’ll be ready in about ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later she came downstairs, her hair done, her makeup applied, and a smile on her face, and I breathed a sigh of relief and drove her to the theater.
It all worked out in the end, but not without quite a bit of stress and discomfort and unhappiness.
Which is not the point of participating in all these things. They aren’t supposed to make you sick and miserable. Even if it’s for just a couple hours.
So the Universe was like HOLY SHIT WOMAN, YOUR KID IS DOING TOO MUCH STUFF.
And now I got it.
And the next time Number 4 asks to do just one more thing, we will have a concrete example of what happens when she takes on too much stuff and all I’ll have to say to bring her back to reality is, “Remember what happened after middle school track championships?”
I want Number 4 and all the kids to be able to do all the stuff they enjoy and are good at.
But the reality is that you just can’t do everything.
I mean you can.
But eventually you’ll end up with your head in the toilet or in some other equally shitty physical or emotional condition, and then you’ll have an epiphany.
And that’s what I had today.
LIfe is not like High School Musical.
At least it’s not for Number 4.
You can’t be a member of a play and be serious about sports. There are only so many activities you can squeeze into one weekend.
There are only so many things an eleven-year-old — even a super talented and mature and intelligent and responsible and proactive eleven year old — can handle in one weekend.
And I guess Number 4 has to do a little life decluttering, too.