One of the wonderful things about living in the Chicago area is that there are always a dozen fun things we could be doing on any given day. We’re always on the go doing something we think will be fun. If it’s also subtly educational, like listening to a concert or going to an outdoor art exhibit, even better. We seek out the free or low cost events, so it’s not like these activities stress our budget. They do, however, stress our time.
We’re going through a lot of transitions in our house this fall. The girls are now in first grade. This means they get on the bus at 8:30 a.m. and return home at 4:00 p.m. When they leave in the morning, it’s like they are going off to work. When they come home, they are tired like they have just put in a full work day. In a way, they have. Their job is to learn as much as possible in school.
We also just adopted a dog from our local animal shelter. He’s a one-year-old, black and white Husky with icy blue eyes. He’s beautiful, good with the girls, and a sweet dog. We’re working through the house training issues and getting him into the household routine.
It all adds up to a screaming need to slow down. We have been making hard decisions about what to do and when. And, it’s taking a complete mind-change to adapt.
Before full-day school and a dog, it would have been normal for us to say, “Let’s go apple picking and meet some friends for lunch Saturday.” We would have left shortly after breakfast and returned home late in the afternoon. Now we step back and think about whether or not it’s too much running around for the girls. After a long school week, they probably need time to just play and relax. We also have to think about how much time we can leave our new dog alone. We crate him for when we’re out of the house for short trips, but don’t want to leave him in the crate for four or five hours in the afternoon.
It’s not like I’m worried about what we are missing out. We’ll still be active. It’s just that we’re choosing activities through a new lens. It is going to take a bit to adapt to all the changes. We have to stop thinking we’re missing out on some fun and realize that we’re gaining well-rested children. We have to pick and choose our activities more carefully so we balance doing fun things with the need to take care of our newest family member.
Mostly we need to remember that in Chicago, there is always something fun and interesting to do. It’s our job as parents to make the hard decisions about which ones we participate in and which ones we put in the “next year” file.