WANTED: One schedule juggler. Experience with the impossible. Responsible for 5 people, 1 dog, 2 cars, 1 bus route, 2 carpools, lessons of all types, friends in all jurisdictions. Must drive. Spare time to be spent making lists, time charts, bar graphs. Non-sexist position.
I have this recurring dream that I will hire such a person rather than be the one described.
"Yes, I work. Full time. I'm a schedule juggler. Uh, huh. An s.j."
A real conversation-stopper.
To check your qualifications, take the following test:
Answer each question "yes" or "no".
1. Do you worry you'll be late to the third activity of the day?
2. Are Saturdays and Sundays beginning to resemble weekdays?
3. Do you consider yourself fortunate when you have to drive only one way per child per day?
4. Do you feel sorry for the children who cannot attend and offer to "gather them up" along the way?
5. Do you stress your child's unique personality by having him have his own set of individual activities?
6. Are you sad when a plan falls through and immediately try to replace it?
1-2 "Yes": You undoubtedly have already hired an s.j. OR you have no children.
3-4 "Yes": Your children are young: probably in pre-school OR you are unwilling to admit the facts.
5-6 "Yes": You Are a Schedule Juggler. Congratulations!
How did it happen?
You swore five years ago when you saw your sister in Chicago carpooling five days a week that you'd never fall into that trap. Your children would do fine and not need all that "refinement."
Well, Your kids did fine, but they were in the crib and didn't care. One day they went to a play group and you found they had a good time. "What a good experience," you burbled.
You began making plans with other mothers for more opportunities.
Translation: 3 driving experiences at age 2 for play time.
Now it's nursery-school time. You live too far to walk so you join two other mothers and take turns driving. You make this elaborate "It-must-be-Monday-so-Peggy-drives-chart" which works unitl it snows and Peggy is afraid to drive or Justin is sick so Marty needs to switch.
"Let me see, I owe you one from last week and that means you drive this week, but . . ."
It has begun!
The neighborhood school offers a half-day kindergarten -- you want more. Choosing an extended day or full-day program means a carpool or a school bus. Your other children leave 40 minutes earlier, or is it 30 minutes later; no, maybe it just varies from day-to-day.
How about the said statements: "Everyone else knows how to swim."
So the swimming lessons end 10 minutes before the tennis lessons begin and they are a true 20-minute drive apart. Check out the other s.j. faces -- several are probably familiar -- a natural carpoll may be in the works.
But it doesn't all really get going until you add two to three birthday parties a weekend -- all occurring simultaneously at opposite ends of the metropolitan area. These days no one wants to miss a party: It means missing miniature golf, a magician, a movie, bowling, pizza, a clown, a whatever.
But do not bemoan the s.j. habit yet. There are still two unexplained areas: sleepovers and camp.
A "good" sleepover is one who provides his own transportation both ways, does not have an allergic reaction to the dog and likes to sleep all night inside his own sleeping bag.
Camps are another schedule-juggler's bane. Is the camp going to provide transportation? Door-to-door? Do the campers come from all over the metropolitan area? Does that mean they may become friends and invite my children to play? Does the program introduce new sports and activities? Translation: Well it mean lessons in the fall of alternate afternoons?
Why do we do it? Who knows, but the trick is survival. By following these simple rules:
1. Always ask where a new friend lives.
2. Teach the children to compare the new friend's Zip Code with the "acceptible Zip-Code Radius Chart" in each child's wallet.
3. Find out the healthy history of the adults in your carpool. If they had two or more cases of illness last year, tell them your kids are taking the bus.
4. Cross-reference the birthdays of all sleepovers.
5. Cross-examine all new and old friends about activities.
a. Talk them into new sports like front-yard tag, a hike around the back yard, basement soccer.
b. Introduce them to projects like crayoning at home, painting on the front porch, or gymnastics on the front hill.
6. Explain the significance of friends: A friend is someone who lives in the same house with you and likes to do all activities with you at home.