When you have kids, trying to plan a vacation during the school year is a tough thing to do.
So when my sister from Connecticut called about meeting her and her sons, my nephews, at Disney World, I told her that I'd have to check the calendar.
The problem is that I don't have just one calendar that I need to look at; I have several.
For my son, there is the Hillsborough County school academic calendar, plus the Mary Bryant Elementary calendar. Then there is my daughter's preschool calendar, which follows a combination of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties' academic calendar.
Besides the school calendars, there are the kids' sports practice and game schedules to consider. Also, my son attends religious education class every Sunday at our church.
Any parent with school-age kids knows how hard it can be to juggle school and extracurricular activities. My 4-year-old daughter loves to play soccer, so she's taking a Soccer Shots class on Saturday mornings. Luckily, she has practice and a game at the same time every Saturday. This school year, though, my 7-year-old son is playing flag football in the fall, soccer in the winter and baseball in the spring. When he's on the soccer and baseball teams, he'll have practice once a week, plus games on Saturdays.
Add in the fact we don't know when his practice and game times are until right before the season starts. This makes it hard to plan things too far in advance.
It may sound like my kids are overscheduled, but most parents I know experience the same thing. One friend just told me about her two sons' baseball schedules. There are two practices a week for her older son, and both boys have games on Saturdays at different times.
I also have friends with daughters in Girl Scouts, gymnastics, dance and cheer. These involve weekly meetings, practices and competitions. Having two or three kids involved in different activities can mean parents spend a lot of time morphing into chauffeurs.
Though my husband and I find our free time giving way to our kids' activities, we don't really mind. We think it's important to keep our kids engaged while letting them try different things. Being part of a team and learning from coaches and other leaders are integral parts of youth. Also, playing on a team helps kids learn the importance of commitment.
As they get older, I know the pressure of extracurricular activities will only intensify and become more time consuming.
But parents must find the right balance between family, school, sports and other activities. I want my kids to learn about commitment, but I also want them to have fun.
After consulting my calendars, I was able to find some time in February to meet up with my sister and nephews. They live far away and we don't get to see them very often, so I want my kids to know that spending time with family is important.
Even if we miss a soccer game, that's okay. I know we'll have a great time at Disney World.
Danielle Hauser is a married mother of two who lives in the Westchase area.