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Balancing act: Are you trying enough 'extracurricular' activities?

Are you participating in extracurricular activities?
Are you participating in extracurricular activities?

Two weeks into the new school year, I'm remembering why my wife and I are always frazzled in September.

It's not just getting into the groove again of taking children to and from different schools at different times, serving as PTA co-president (in my wife's case) and trying to help with homework in the evenings.

What really keeps us jumping is the return of extracurricular activities.

All four of our children have piano lessons right after school one day each week, and we're trying to get them to practice on the other days. Our two younger daughters are playing in a fall softball league, which requires an additional one or two nights a week.

Those two daughters also plan to participate in band, choir and show choir at their elementary school this year, some of which takes place during the school day, but much of which is before or after school. Our oldest daughter is in both band and theater classes at her school. Once the concerts and performances for those activities begin, she'll have evening commitments with them, too.

Add to all of that their various family and church activities, and our children keep us moving from morning until night pretty much every day.

As I thought about how busy they are with both school and out-of-school activities, it led me to ponder whether all of that extra stuff is worth the effort.

I've concluded that, as long as our children's activities stay within reason, they are important. As they try their hands at music, theater, sports or whatever else they want to attempt, they're learning life skills like teamwork and the importance of practice and patience. At the same time, we hope they'll find an activity or two that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

And that insight led me to consider whether I'm doing enough "extracurricular" activities in my own life.

The vast majority of my time is taken up by work and family. But even though I'm no longer in school, I still see the importance of trying new things. After all, you're never too old to stretch yourself and maybe, if you're lucky, discover a previously hidden talent or passion.

I did a little stretching of my own last year when I joined the small choir in my church. While I've always been involved in instrumental music, I had never sung in a choir before. I figured my voice was decent, but not good enough to be part of an organized group.

Fortunately, I have children who continually force me out of my comfort zone. My three girls all wanted to participate in our church choir, but they were a little shy about it. I told them I'd join if they did, and they agreed to the deal.

I'm so glad they did.

While I'm still not a great singer, I'm having a wonderful time as part of a choir. I'm getting better every week at picking up and belting out the tenor line of the songs we practice, as well as the hymns we sing during church. And I thoroughly enjoy the men and women on the "team" with me — especially my three girls.

A high point in my choir experience came this last Sunday, when I joined four other men in a quintet. I'm not sure how we sounded; I know the others were superb — I'm afraid I was the weak link. However, having the opportunity to stand up and sing in front of a large group of people made me both nervous and excited in a way I haven't previously experienced.

As a nice side benefit, my mom is thrilled with my choir experiment. She's been part of her church choir for as long as I can remember, and — ever the parent — she thinks it's great that I've found a new extracurricular activity to enjoy.

I do, too. And based on this positive experience, I've decided I need to be more open to trying new things every now and then. Just like my children, I still have many life lessons I can learn. And if I really want a balanced life, I need to discover which activities will help me grow.

The question is, what should I try next.

I've got it! Cooking! My family is really in for a treat now.

Either that, or they'll insist that I stick to singing.

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