5 Ways to Rein in the Family Calendar
Frantically I shuttled my four kids to and from three different extracurricular activities. I had to pick up my high school freshman from band, drop off my thirteen-year-old son at football practice, and bring my two younger girls to horseback riding lessons. Then my plan was to go home so my oldest could get going on her homework while I started dinner. After that, I would swing by the football field pick up my son, and head back to the stable to catch the last few minutes of the girls’ lesson.
The plan had little margin, but it could work.
Well, there could be success if everyone stuck to the schedule. The first two pickups and drop-offs were seamless. Next on the list was to get the two younger girls to the stable for their lesson.
Our steps quickened as we reached the barn. The instructor appeared to be late.
“Mom, go ahead and leave. Jenny will be here any minute. We can wait in the barn.” My twelve-year-old, sensing my irritation, spoke for her sister and herself.
I mulled this over. The barn was safe. The girls were twelve and ten. We had been in the barn and waited for Jenny, the instructor, many times before.
“OK. I’m going to go so I will be able to swing back and catch the end of your lesson.”
Just as I arrived home, my phone rang.
“Mom, Jenny still isn’t here.” It was twenty minutes into what should have been their lesson.
No Jenny. No lesson. My kids alone in the barn. My blood boiled. I was angry with Jenny. I was angry with myself for leaving them in the barn.
I arrived at the stable in record time. Collected my girls and drove straight to Jenny’s residence located on the ranch. Firmly and rapidly, I knocked on her door.
“You didn’t show up to the lesson. The girls waited and you never came.”
“What?’ confusion clouded her face. “Lori, their lesson is next week.”
“Mooooommmm,” the girls chimed in unison.
Whoops. Aside from my obvious pride problem, the immediate issue was we were overprogrammed. My life didn’t just feel out of control, it was out of control. Our calendar was chaos and needed to be reined in!
I learned five lessons about simplifying the schedule from that humbling experience.
How To Simplify Your Schedule
1. Commit to a common family focus.
Consider family values and priorities before choosing to say yes. Be comfortable saying no. Provide reasonable boundaries regarding how many activities in which each person may participate.
2. Communicate the daily and weekly schedule with the entire family.
Post a calendar for all to see to reduce the chance of calendar confusion.
3. Create some white space in each day.
Margin needs to be scheduled in to reduce chaos and provide opportunity for flexibility.
4. Connect with your family members by prioritizing family dinners.
It may not be realistic to have a family dinner every night but do your best to gather for a meal as often as possible.
5. Cease comparing your family calendar to someone else’s.
Being busy is not a badge of honor. More involvement and more activities do not bring more satisfaction instead they have the potential to bring more frustration, irritation, and impatience.
My friend Becky told me about a system she designed that helps her family keep their calendar under control. She color-codes her calendar. Family members are represented by a different color. As a family, they discuss which activities best reflect their family values, and those activities are given priority. This is a workable and wise technique.
I’m learning simplification creates more satisfaction. We can be a committed and connected family rather than a frenzied family by getting control of the family calendar.
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.