As soon as your second child is born, parental juggling begins. No longer do you have a one on one ratio - now you have to split your time. It's an enjoyable effort, to be sure - but as soon as you get the balance sussed out, your babies become school aged kids - and those kids very often play sports.
Adding in a sports rotation strike fear into the hearts of the most intrepid of parents, and it's no wonder. Between practices and games, picture sessions and conditioning, there can be an activity or two every single day of the week. Multiply that times two, three or more children and you may soon find yourself running for the hills. There are secrets to balancing multiple kids and/or multiple sport activities - here are a few that have helped me.
- Mark your calendar - Remember that I suggested you get a big desktop calendar and mount it on your wall? Mark every single practice on that calendar. Color it according to each child - one kid gets a blue highlighter, one a pink and one an orange. This way, you can see at a glance if you've got two activities at the same time, and if you've got to be in three different cities at the same time.
- Pick just one - It can be tremendously exciting for an athlete to be asked to join two teams, or to focus on two different sports. You are only one parent, though, and it can be a necessary, yet difficult lesson that your young athlete needs to learn. Playing for two teams doesn't leave time for much else in life, so it would be a great idea for your talented child to pick one area of focus.
- Get to know the other parents - The other parents in the team can be your greatest allies. They can help with driving, be there in your stead if you must miss a game, and can help you by being your eyes and ears when you can't be there.
- Discuss it with your kids - I vividly remember the fall season that I had four playing soccer, two running cross country and one in boxing class. I sat them all down in front of me and laid it out honestly. With six kids and one adult, I was just not going to be able to be at every game or practice, and I needed them to be ok with it. If they weren't going to be ok, I would need to know before hand, and we'd have to revisit the thought of that particular child playing sports. I also told the older kids that I wasn't able ever to leave a 5 or 6 year old alone at practice, and I wanted that understood in the beginning. A bit of knowledge upfront goes a long way towards smoothing over hurt feelings.
- When you are there, be there - Don't be on the phone with your girlfriend. As much as possible, stay off the smart phone and avoid checking emails. When you are watching, be present and focused on your child. They see it, they know it and they remember.
- Cut yourself some slack - That fall season I mentioned above? It was a tough season for me, one that caused me to cry a couple of times when I just couldn't be there for a game or missed a goal. It took a sit down discussion with a close friend to remind me that I was only one person and I could only do so many things at the same time. Be nice to yourself. Don't set expectations so high that you are certain to fail.
Have you had more than one child playing sports, or one child playing multiple sports? What are your favorite time and coping techniques?