Kids, Parenting, Productivity

A 12 year old’s perception of “free time”

Asher is really busy right now. Obviously he is back in school, but he also has play practice after school, volleyball Tuesday/ Thursday and swim practice almost every night.

It’s a lot! Possibly (probably?) bordering on “too much”, but we decided to allow it because it’s a fairly short period in time. (The play is April 22-23, so that’s really just a few weeks away and then that will go away). He quit piano recently, so that’s gone, too.

Also, we discussed all of these activities with him in advance and explained that if he really wants to do volleyball AND swim AND drama club…it’s going to be busy. Are you okay with that? Yes. Are you sure? Yes. Okay, then…

Last night he had a later swim practice (7:30-8:40) in another town, so we didn’t get home until just after 9 pm. I could tell he was tired. (Probably still a little jet lag, too.) He said he had a really good, fun swim practice and was positive about that, but he seemed a little cranky that he had to basically walk in the door and go straight to bed.

He made a frustrated sounding comment, something like, “I like doing all of this, but then I never have any free time.”

I gave that some thought after he went to bed, and talked a little more with him this morning. I told him that, first of all, he doesn’t HAVE to do any of these things. None of this is imposed by us, his parents. But if he does want to, then we have some options.

1.Do a little time tracking exercise!

This might be a page out of Laura Vanderkam’s book, but I thought he could benefit from it.

Meaning, does he really have no free time?? We went through his week so far to find out.

Monday: Had drama after school until 5:00, then straight to swim practice until 6:20.

*Free time= 6:30 p.m. –> bedtime (he did fall asleep early on Monday, so it probably felt short. But normally we’d be talking 6:30- 9:00 at least. That’s 2 1/2- 3 hours.)

Tuesday: Had drama + VB until 5:45. Home quick to eat dinner/change, then swim from 6:20- 7:35. Admittedly T/ TH are his busiest days, with doubled up sports practice.

*Free time= 7:45- 9:00. (I agree, not a lot. But 1 1/2 hours or so is not nothing.)

Wednesday: Drama until 4:30. Home to relax/ eat/ hang out until we left for swim around 7 pm. He played 45 minutes of video games with his friends in here, too.

*Free time = 4:45- 7:00. (2 hours and 15 minutes). Also read in the car on the way to swim, played on his phone on the way home.

Thursday: Has drama + VB until 5:45. Then will be home from 6-8, has an (abnormally late/ rescheduled) swim practice from 8-9 pm here in town.

*Free Time= 6- 7:45 or so. 1 hour 45 minutes.

Friday: No drama. Just swim from 6:20- 7:35. Will probably totally veg out after school until swim/ play with friends, whatever he wants.

*Free time= 3:30- 6:00, 7:45- 10:00/ bedtime. (4 3/4 hours)

Saturday: Just has one single volleyball game at noon. Will skip Saturday a.m. swim practice to sleep in.

*Free time= the rest of the day besides ~12-1! Let’s say “8 hours“, because he’ll probably do some chores, etc. too.

Sunday: A single volleyball game 2-3 pm, then a (fun) Awards Banquet for swim team.

*Free time= a lot. Much/ most of the day. Let’s go with 8 hours.

Grand total= If my fraction math adds up, I think that’s around 29 1/4 hours.

2. Cut back on something!

Another option is, quite obviously, to cut something back! I told him- you could go to less swim practices for a while. Of course, you’ll have to be aware that if you go to less practices, you might not swim as fast as you are used to/ might lag behind your teammates that do go everyday. But maybe that’s okay! If you are okay with that, that’s a legit, perfectly acceptable option. (So far he didn’t really seem sold on that, though.)

3. Remember that this is temporary, and just accept that you have a little less free time right now.

Like I said, the play will be over soon, and the volleyball season is pretty short, too. School gets out this year early, by May 26. That is not very far away. Soon there will be so much free time we won’t know what to do with it!! 😬


Anyway, I’m not sure we fully resolved the “issue” before school, but he seemed thoughtful and more positive about it when presented in this new light. Mostly I think he was just tired at bedtime, and everything seems worse when you’re tired.

In a happy mood/ smiley this morning after a “really good” night of sleep. Finally! I think we all had issues with waking up in the night after our return from overseas. I finally slept the whole night through, too. 🎉🎉

And Ethan, who is still in “lazy mode”, because his 3x/ weekly soccer practices don’t officially start until next week. 😉

livin’ the dream. 😎

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for my winter hat. Because it was 58 degrees yesterday, and snowing today. On March 31st. 😩 Oh, Wisconsin….

5 thoughts on “A 12 year old’s perception of “free time””

  1. I supervise play practice on Mondays and I can tell you he’s doing great! The Lost Boys (really just two boys and all girls) are really coming along with their banter!

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  2. Time tracking can be so helpful to show you if you are spending your time like you think you are or if your perception of how much time you spend doing things is accurate! I tracked my time in January and think I will do that on an annual basis. Of course the week I tracked was an odd week since Will got tubes and then was home sick for 2.5 days later that week with a virus. So I would expect Jan 2023 to look far different but who knows! He is very busy but it’s good to remind him that these were choices he made and not things you imposed on him. We had such limited options when I was growing up because I grew up in a teeny tiny town. We could have drove 30 minutes to have access to more activities but my parents didn’t allow that because they had 5 kids and ran a business so did not have the time to drive us to activities, etc. I still filled my time, especially once I was in HS and had access to things like speech and drama. I’m glad our kids will have access to way more things, like chess club, robotics, an afterschool Spanish language program, etc!

    Hopefully Asher doesn’t have too much homework right now? It seems to vary so much from school to school and varies based on their grade level so I have no idea what the expectation would be around homework for his age!

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  3. it’s great that you didn’t respond harshly on him when he was just tired. instead you did the objective review of his time and gives him a new perspective. Sometimes I also wonder if Sofia has too many activities as she’s always doing or on the way to do homework/activity. But it’s her choice and it teaches her about time management and prioritization. What I try to do is to keep open minded and ready to change/adjust as needed.

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  4. You handled that well. I had a lot of things going on when I was his age and they were all things *I* wanted to do. If he’s anything like me, it’s going to be hard for him to give anything up, haha, but I think you really gave him some food for thought… about priorities and figuring out what’s important for him.

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