My 9-year-old son had finally had enough.
It was time early Monday evening to put on his shin guards and lace up his cleats for an indoor soccer game. In the previous 72 hours or so, he had watched two Quincy High School basketball games -- and run around with his buddies after the games when they think they own the court and play full-court games of 2 on 2 after the place has cleared out. He spent the night at a friend's house on Friday night, no doubt playing into the early hours of Saturday morning.
On Saturday, he had a YMCA basketball league game. He had another basketball game on Sunday and a two-hour baseball practice -- yes, baseball practice in the dead of winter. With no school on Monday, he stayed up late on Sunday night trying to get his MLB 2k13 baseball player named "Joe Random" into the major leagues.
He wanted nothing to do with soccer on Monday. He was spent. And you couldn't blame him. It was then that my wife and I figured out that we have overscheduled him. At basketball practice on Tuesday night -- no, it never stops -- I mentioned to some other parents that we held him out of soccer on Monday because we have him in too many things right now.
To my surprise, several of them felt like they were doing the same thing with their kids. Are we ruining these kids or what?
"It's not necessarily a bad thing to have a lot of things going on, kids get a lot of out of them," Dr. Lanny Stiles, a child psychiatrist with Blessing Behavioral Services, told me.
Stiles said the key is making sure to let off the accelerator and give the kids room to relax every now and then. Stiles has an 18-year-old daughter who is active in many things. One of her loves is martial arts, something she's been doing since she was 6. Stiles said there are times when his daughter has tired of the practice routine for the sport and taken several weeks off.
"We gave her that time off when she felt like she needed the time off," Stiles said.
My son is a sports nut. If he's not watching some game on TV, he's watching highlights on YouTube. All of his video game play revolves around baseball, basketball and football games. He loves being on teams and playing whatever his friends are playing. That is what made Monday's scene so strange. For the first time, he didn't want to play.
The last thing I wanted to do was push him into playing, so we skipped the game.
Stiles said parents need to make sure they don't put any added stress on their children to participate in their extracurricular activities. Those parents may have spent a lot of money for the swim coach or for them to be part of the dance troupe, but don't let the little ones know that.
"Parents need to remember not to say, ‘I'm paying for this. You have to go,'?" Stiles said. "That puts more stress on the kids. They don't want to let their parents down."
Stiles said there are some warning signs to watch for that could indicate that your child is overscheduled. He said that kids might become withdrawn and may act out more. A slumping grade card may also be another indication that they're doing too much.
My wife and I sat our little guy down and told them that we'll have to make some tough choices. We won't always be able to do every sport that his friends play. Something is going to have to go. That last thing we want to do is kill our son's love for the sports he plays.