On The Record: Becoming a Butterfly Parent

By Daniella Guzman

positive parentingRhinoceroses are strong, have endurance and thick skin. A rhino charges toward its goals and never stops until it gets there. As a child, my bedtime stories were not about princesses and unicorns. They were about living life like a rhinoceros and not a cow.

When I became a mother and had little rhinos of my own, I naturally wanted the same for them – to be strong and determined. As my 5-year-old Sofia grew old enough, I signed her up for just about every activity possible to help her excel.

Needless to say, I overdid it. Keeping up with my work and driving her to and from piano, dance, soccer, playdates, birthday parties plus house chores was exhausting for me and for Sofia. I realized my family was way over-scheduled. According to psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., author of “The Overscheduled Child,” I’m a hyper-parent.

It comes from our parental instinct to do what is best for our children, but the impulse to polish our kids by filling every minute of their time with extracurricular activities can lead to overscheduled, exhausted, stressed kids full of anxiety. Rosenfeld says that in most American families, kids have no time to themselves – no down time, no time to invent or to imagine because they are often exhausted.

Down time? What’s that? That is not how rhinos live! That’s what I thought, at least, until I met organized entrepreneur and mom of four Alexis Fuller. Alexis taught me a few things about scheduling all the activities, kids and downtime. She has a huge dry-erase calendar for her family that everyone can see and follow. She allows her kids to pick one sport or activity after school, and weekends are low key. Sage, who is 9, does karate; Ledger, who is 8, picked baseball; and 5-year-old twins, Sedona and London, get to do two activities together and they picked gymnastics and ballet. Alexis runs and operates her own business. She even maximizes her time by walking or taking a jog while the kids are in practice. It’s all scheduled!

Her biggest struggle, Alexis says, is giving the kids one-on-one time. “I’ll take one to the grocery store with me, the other to run an errand. Sometimes I’ll just color with one of them. It doesn’t always have to be an outing,” she says.

The most valuable idea I learned from this organized power mom: scheduling downtime. “We keep the weekends pretty chill because we value our free days,” she says. “We don’t go to all the birthday parties and we spend time at home playing games, watching movies, very low key to keep the stress low.” They even take scheduled naps on weekends to feel rested. That’s music to my ears. I’d love to feel rested and low-stressed.

One afternoon, I asked all four of Alexis’ children whether they would rather be at summer school or after-school activities or playing and relaxing together at home. Every single one of them answered that they preferred low-key activities at home.

It’s no secret that we live in a competitive world where expectations have soared, but the idea of continuing to trample through life fast and furious, like a rhinoceros, is exhausting. A cow’s life sounds a little boring, but I think I can settle for living like a butterfly – darting intensely across the sky but blissfully stopping to smell the flowers.

Daniella Guzman is the anchor on “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:307 a.m. A mother of two, Daniella’s column, On the Record, brings her views on parenting, fun family activities and her take on work-life balance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.

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