My son, Clyde, is involved in many extracurricular activities: dance, cheer, orchestra—if it has any creative element to it at all, he’s in. (Bonus points if it’s creative and active. He’s often lamented the fact that there isn’t a Marching Orchestra. Although I’m sure he would feel quite differently if he played the double bass.) Being involved in so many different activities has many advantages. For one thing, he’s usually too exhausted to get into any kind of trouble. And for another, juggling so many (often conflicting) schedules helps him to learn the value of time management. Or at least it will. One day. Eventually.
That’s the plan, anyway. There is, however, one major problem with this plan—and surprisingly, that problem isn’t Clyde. It’s the adults in his life. (Don’t get me wrong—Clyde is also a problem when it comes to this plan. He, however, is a minor problem. Literally. As in: he’s still a minor. This means that he still has a very good chance of changing, growing and maturing. Right now his poor time management skills can still be attributed to his lack of wisdom and maturity. The adults in his life? Not so much.)
Here’s the issue: his life is filled with meetings, lessons, practices and rehearsals that never seem to end on time. Meaning that when he arrives at the next meeting, lesson, practice, or rehearsal he is already late, thereby provoking a lecture about the importance of time management from the next adult on his schedule, who, in all likelihood, will then keep him late to “make up” the lost time, which will then make him late to the next event, provoking a new lecture at his next stop, on and on ad infinitum, ad nauseam, until finally the end of the day comes and he collapses into bed, wakes up, and does it all over again.
The obvious solution, of course, is to nip this cycle in the bud by speaking up at the very first meeting, lesson or rehearsal and pointing out that the ending time has come and gone. The problem with this scenario, however, is that it would not only require Clyde to be more aware of the time than the adult in charge, but it would also require him to then tell that adult that, regardless of where they happen to be in the meeting, lesson or rehearsal, he needs to leave. This is not an easy thing for most adults to do. (Ever have to stop your boss in the middle of an interminable powerpoint to tell them you have to go pick up your kids? Remember their frustration and annoyance, even though they were the ones who had scheduled the meeting to end at 2:30, and it was now 3:15, and you had told them from the very beginning that you had to leave every day at 3:00 to go get your kids? Yeah, now imagine having to have that conversation with them when you were fifteen and you’ll get a sense of how difficult it is for kids to interrupt their coach or director.)
At first I thought that this was simply a Clyde problem, meaning that it was a problem unique to children with overly packed schedules. (And before I get all of the calls and emails about the dangers of over-scheduling, please realize this: Clyde wants to be involved in all of these activities.) But then I started speaking to other parents, even parents of children with moderate to light schedules, and I realized that this was a universal problem: the ish at the end of whatever ending time was previously stated has become the norm.
As someone who has always included (and enforced) an end time on playdates, this is both frustrating and appalling to me. Still, I do suppose that in the long run it will help Clyde learn new time management skills. In fact, it will probably help him learn the most important time management skill of all: how not to let other people manage your time.
In the end, everything is a lesson. Just maybe not the lesson we originally set out to learn.