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Mom's-Eye-View: Are My Kids Too Busy?

Maggie has been asked to join the traveling gymnastics team at her gym. What this means: She'd train with coaches from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, plus go to a competition one weekend a month. My sister tells me it's comparable to her daughter's soccer schedule: one weekday practice and matches every Saturday and Sunday.

Wait a minute -- that's HUGE. It's nine hours of classes a week! Which really means 12 hours total, including the round-trip to the gym. It's like giving her a part-time job.

Yeah, but it's 12 hours doing something fun and healthy. Why not devote that much time to sports, which is something I wish I'd had more of when I was growing up?

But when will she be able to do her homework?

On the ride to the gym. On the way home. She'll manage -- the other kids do.

What about Lucy? It hardly seems fair to drag her to the gym for her older sister's sake.

Lucy can take a gymnastics class on Mondays at the same time Maggie's there. And Lucy has her own activities, too. Between art class and swimming lessons she has plenty to do.

This is too many lessons and classes for a child. There's not enough downtime built into the girls' schedules -- not to mention mine!

I guess if I think about it, it isn't that daunting. Monday: Maggie and Lucy, gym. Tuesday: Maggie, piano. Wednesday: Maggie, gym. Thursday: Lucy, swim. Friday: Maggie, gym. Saturday: Lucy, art. That seems reasonable.

What about everything smart moms know about the folly of overscheduling kids? Children need time to let their minds wander, to nurture their creativity and follow their imaginations wherever they lead. To act silly and hang out at home. What if I'm creating type A kids?

They'll get plenty of downtime on the weekends, and based on my observations, they don't seem to have any trouble acting silly.

But what if such an intense focus on one activity turns Maggie into a single-minded zealot? She might become one of those glazed-eyed kids you see in the Olympics whose entire life is gymnastics. She should have many interests. A normal childhood.

Maggie doesn't seem obsessed. It's still just fun to her, and it's not the center of her life. Also, though she's good, I don't see her headed to the Olympics.

Life would be so much easier for all of us if I just said no. No mad dashing. No more obsessive worrying about overscheduling.

I can't say no. This isn't just part of growing up; it's helping her grow up. She's becoming really good at something. She'll have increased confidence, grace, and strength. Winning and losing, falling in front of judges, trying harder next time -- they're classic life lessons. And the biggest trump card of them all? She wants to do it. Badly. When she was asked to join the team, her eyes bugged out with such surprised delight, I thought they might pop out of her head.

Of course we'll do it. I'll get her to the gym. I'll juggle it with Lucy's activities and be sure whatever free time they do have is relatively unstructured. It'll be a giant headache, but this is just one of those sacrifices I'm prepared to make. For my future Olympian.

Parenting contributing editor Valerie Frankel's latest book is a memoir, Thin Is the New Happy.

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