After School Activity Contract


by Lindsay Gallagher on 09/24/2012

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I haven’t had the time or the energy or the brainpower.  One thing that sapped me of much of my mojo was the transition from summer to fall.  I was terrified of what was coming: spending literally thousands of dollars on my children’s after-school activities only to have them fuss and cry and beg.  Why bother?  Why would I willingly throw so much money at something like ballet when Tess has a diva fit every single time she has to put her hair in a bun?

“If you don’t like hairpins and hair nets, quit.  Ballet is not for everyone.  There are lots of other things you can do.”

“But I LOVE ballet,” Tess cried.

“Are you sure about baseball?” I confronted Ronan.  ”You’re on the 12Us now.  It’s a lot of hours and it’s hot out there.  You have to get up early on weekends for games.  Do you really want to do it?  It has to be your choice.”

“Baseball is my life,” Ronan said.

“Then you need to really care.  I can’t spend all this money and time and effort and feel like I’m forcing it on you.   You have no idea how lucky you are.”

When I was on Tess’s ballet school’s website, I was paralyzed – how could I willingly submit myself to another year of Nutcracker exhaustion plus four classes a week?   And what about swim team?  At this age, Ronan has a 2 1/2 hour practice every day except Sunday.  I could already hear him telling me he’s too tired, or that he has too much homework or that, God forbid, it’s butterfly day.

So I came up with a plan.  I wrote up a contract with line items like: I will not complain about my hair; I will not try to get out of practice.  There are consequences and goals on the list as well as the dollar amount for each endeavor and the limits to what I will spend.  For instance, I will agree to purchase cleats, but if Ronan wants the fancy Nikes, the logo will be at his own expense.  Two leotards and two pairs of tights were included – matching knitted booty shorts were not.  There were line items about manners, too.  They had to agree to be polite to whoever has the pleasure of driving them to or from practice or rehearsal or games.  They had to promise to respect their classmates and teammates, instructors and coaches by not goofing off or complaining or being a brat.  “You’re not toddlers anymore.”

This was one of those wonderful win-win moments because if they refused to sign, I would be freed from miles of driving and hours of waiting and watching and sewing and fretting.  And think of the money we would save.

Ronan and Tess sat with solemn expressions and initialed and signed, agreeing to hand over their iphones or itouches whenever I asked because owning those devices is a privilege not a right.  They agreed to do their homework and get good grades or else they would no longer be allowed to participate.  I read it all out loud.  I even asked Joe to listen and sign so we were all on the same page.  It was like a post 2008 refi:  initial here, and here, and here….

But it was worth it!

Since the contract Tess has done her own hair and not complained one time about how hard it is to put on tights or how much the pins hurt her scalp.  She seems quite freed actually and is always excited to go.  This past Saturday she confessed:  ”Since I’ve been doing my own hair and not worrying about how wiggly the bun is, I feel more connected to ballet.”

Ronan claims he loves the new swim team and has even added a third sport – lacrosse – to his week.  He’s been amped for baseball practices and has done all of his homework without a single complaint.

It’s like a holiday, Christmas in September.  Kids who collect their own gear and move their asses and give a shit.  Hallelujah!

Aside from my refi, that was the best contract I’ve signed in years.

I’ll let you know how long it lasts.

About Lindsay Jamieson

Author of Beautiful Girl, mother of 2, wife of cinematographer, former dancer, snowboarder -- recovered bulimic.
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