Take Back the Weekend

A friend from the “old neighborhood” had a landmark birthday yesterday, and as I flipped through albums looking for a photo to send her, I was reminded of the simpler days of our youth.

Remember when weekends were anticipated, and cherished, for their endless hours of unscheduled time? When you woke up to limitless possibilities of an uncharted day? When a stroll or bike ride to the playground held the promise of serendipitous encounters?

In my own family, we six kids checked in now and then with our parents, but they didn’t track or accompany us in our every move.  My mom’s motto for sports and activities was: If you can get there on your own (by foot, bike or bus), you can participate.

For my parents, Saturdays and Sundays provided respite from their respective jobs. A weekend morning called for a full pot on the Mister Coffee machine, a slow read of the newspaper and a few hours to take on the New York Times crossword. Relaxing afternoons included catching up on novels, magazines and TV sports games.

Now, weekends filled with my four kids’ activities make me gasp for air. By Sunday evening, I’m cranky and exhausted, anxious for the school- and work-week to begin.

The attached is a real schedule from a few years back, showing which parent (R or L) had to make each drive or attend various events on a spring Saturday.  Every weekend during football and lacrosse season, when I had three boys playing on different teams, the schedule looked similar. During the winter, when my boys swam on a year-round team, the logistics were less complex, but we spent endless hours on hard bleachers in humid swim clubs, often nearly an hour away from home.

Now that my oldest two are in high school and the first-born can drive, Saturday obligations have eased a bit. However, weekends still wear me out.

I realize that the busy-ness is partly my choice.  I have four active, athletic kids, and for the most part, my husband and I allow them to choose their own activities…even when the impact on the family is significant.

It’s really up to us to “take back the weekend” before the kids head off to college and our nest empties.

As such, I’ve decided to try to make some changes. I hereby grant myself permission to:

  • Sleep in on a Saturday morning; the kids can fix their own breakfast (Cliff bars make a healthy-enough meal);
  • Miss the occasional sports game, or sneak away at half-time;
  • Let a child travel with another family to an “away” game, with the understanding that I’ll take the next turn;
  • Buy cookies or cupcakes for the sports-team party, instead of baking them at home;
  • Make the kids miss a social gathering if they can’t find their own transportation;
  • Watch the weeds grow and the dust-bunnies congregate;
  • Allow the laundry to pile up for another day or so (as long as everyone has clean underwear, we’re good, right?);
  • Order groceries online, for delivery;
  • Unplug the home phone and put the cell phone on “vibrate”;
  • Avoid the mall and help the kids find what they need on the Internet (when I was young, my family routinely “shopped” via the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalog);
  • Curl up on the couch with a good book in the middle of the day;
  • Say “No” to social engagements, without a good excuse;
  • Send a check to a fundraiser, or nothing at all, instead of dressing up for a formal event;
  • Skip church and read a sermon printout later;
  • Order takeout food Sunday evening, to avoid spending the afternoon in the kitchen;
  • Ignore email until Sunday night or early Monday morning;
  • Make smarter choices about how I spend my, and the family’s, time.

Looking back on my own childhood, I recall the joy of camaraderie with good friends, walking to the Five-and-Dime with loose change in my pocket, taking the bus “downtown” for Slurpies and shopping, biking to the beach for a lazy summer day of sun-bathing, spending winter afternoons at the neighborhood park-turned-ice rink and watching old movies with my parents and siblings.

I remember my parents spending weekend days together, just hanging out in our home.

It’s time I allowed my family similar memories and experiences. How about you?

– Linda Williams Rorem, 23 May 2011

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