We all welcome summertime and the chance to get outdoors.
At the same time, the variety of activities being offered bring with it the stress of fitting everything into our busy schedules. Salmon are running, the wilderness bids us to venture out and explore, the backyard hammock beckons on a sunny evening, and summer sports are in full sway.
For this writer’s family, it was baseball that ruled the summer for more than a quarter of a century. Four children of ages varying across a dozen years—and evenly divided between the genders—meant different sports and locations. That lends a little credence to this sharing of recollections and advice on the subject of juggling schedules.
The Little League season in Alaska starts while school is still in session, adding an extra burden on families for the last three weeks or so before the final bell rings to end classes.
Time for homework becomes more cramped. There is less time to prepare meals before heading out to drop the kids off for practice or games. In the old days when only one parent was working, scheduling was easier than today when both are bringing home the bacon. Their task of juggling schedules is even harder than was ours.
The concession stands at ballfields are one substitute for dinner menus, but bring a small degree of worry to diet-conscious parents. Another solution is a stop at a fast-food drive-through—which shares the same worry but with some variations in food selections that help. It is a rare and lucky family that can cram a regular sit-down dinner in between work and getting to the field on time.
Of course, soccer, tennis, golf, hiking, bicycling and Pop Warner football are other activities that occupy Alaskans young and old during our short but excitement-filled summers. Pursuit of those experiences involves the same stresses as does baseball. We aren’t about to leave those out of this list, despite the writer’s preoccupation.
Youngsters’ involvement with sports usually requires uniforms. Those get dirty, grass-stained, sweaty and sometimes torn. Keeping them neat and clean is an added chore that requires time and labor that takes away from already-challenged precious private time. Parents need to remind themselves that a neat appearance is a source of pride and worth the price of time.
Something else that should be kept in mind is that not every child is dedicated to a particular sport, no matter what the parent might think. If he or she really likes to participate, it will be obvious. A child who brings a snack and sits down to stare off in space while the others are busy participating is not destined to be an all-star athlete. An activity more appealing to the young one would be appreciated both by the child and by the adults charged with supervising his or her time on the field.
Adults who volunteer to coach a team, officiate or help in the concession stand do so because they feel a call to serve.
They deserve an occasional thank-you and an offer to help in some way. They may not know everything there is to know about the activity they lead, but at least they are trying. Criticism is not a good response, no matter how strongly one might feel. After all, the parent who knows more about how the game should be played should be out there helping rather than making unkind noise from the stands.
A good way to help for those unable to otherwise spend the time needed as a coach is to strike up a conversation and gently let drop a situation from your experience and how it was handled. A wise coach will jump at the chance to benefit from that knowledge and seek more advice in the future.
But, wait…this is supposed to be about juggling activities to work in everything on your busy schedule, so let’s get back to that.
Planning ahead is the best answer.
Anticipate beforehand the demands to be faced when the season starts. Preparing a meal to be cooked in advance and thawed to be eaten somewhat leisurely helps speed things up at dinnertime. Keeping things in their proper place eliminates wasted time looking for something that’s essential just as you’re ready to leave the house. Kids are known for lying a piece of gear down in strange places that never are obvious spots to check when in a hurry. A place for everything and everything in its place is a good rule to remember.
Scheduled activities are supposed to start at scheduled times. Being prepared to arrive a little early keeps your anxiety level down should something cause a delay. Arriving in a good frame of mind definitely allows those involved to better enjoy the activity.
Wherever possible, arrange your daily chores to allow some breathing room as you approach the time to leave for the activity of the evening. Are there other parents whose children also participate in that activity who could provide transportation for your offspring if something interrupts your plans? Talk with them in advance about sharing—and remember to offer to do the same for them so that you might gain a positive response.
These are simple tips. They are offered as lessons learned, not as well-researched words of wisdom. Had I been smart enough to follow them in the past, things surely would have gone much more smoothly.
Yes, summer activities can bring stress if you let it.
But the benefits that come from a busy summer are well worth the effort despite the stress. A successful season is something that will provide pleasant memories well into the past.
No matter what your interest might be, pursue it with enthusiasm. If gardening is your thing, pull weeds with glee knowing that the plants will grow better for it. If it’s racing cars or off-road vehicles, do it safely in order to be able to do it again. If it requires extra exertion, be sure to be properly hydrated. If it involves venturing into the outdoors, remain bear aware and prepared for the terrain. Remember, too, to use the buddy system—even the Lone Ranger had a sidekick along to help keep him out of trouble.
A quarter of a century of involvement with baseball and with children who were also involved in basketball, wrestling and cross-country running has left me with many fond memories. During that time, my bride spent countless summers rounding up players, bagging popcorn, picking up supplies and selling concessions from the back of our station wagon, answering telephone calls from parents and tending to the “owies” of kids with skinned knees or sore hands—all while juggling schedules to accommodate it. But she never once complained.
As for me, I would not change any of it. The people I came to know, and especially the hundreds of players with whom I came in contact, made it all worthwhile. It entirely was their enthusiasm, skill and devotion to the sport that brought our successes, not my input. I truly treasure the memories.
Summer activities might call for some juggling, but Alaska’s opportunities offer such great rewards that it is worth every effort to take part.
Don’t miss out. Get out and have fun. You’ll be glad you did.
Lee Jordan has been an Alaskan since 1949, moved to Chugiak in 1962 and in 2016 moved back to Anchorage. An Alaska history buff, he enjoys writing about the place where he did not want to be sent, but came to love. He has written four books on Alaska history and has a blog at www.byleejordan.com. To reach Lee Jordan, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.