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question for gym moms (or others with kids in $$$, time-consuming activities)


fdrinca
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DS7 and DD5 have, at the start of this calendar year, left rec gymnastics for the developmental track. Both are small, strong, flexible and coordinated, which I hear are the desirable assets. DS7 is particularly motivated AND has enough naturally going for him that he's been asked to move to Level 4 this month, after starting rec gymnastics in November. DD5 is...hmm. I *think* she tries hard, and I *think* she likes it, but she's kind of a flighty bird.

 

I'm trying to reconcile meeting my kids' gifts (and definitely for my son this is a gift - his coaches have talked about his potential in hyperbolic terms, it's hard to know what's true there and what's not) with the time/financial cost to our family. 

 

- the cost: it's not cheap. I have four kids. The three non-babies all have the same similar flexible/strong/coordinated/daredevil body type. Can we afford three or four gymnasts? No. 

- the time. I'm glad we homeschool, because these 5-7:30 practices would really wear on a 7 year old who'd already spent 7 hours at school. As it is, three of our family dinners are disrupted. 

- the fairness issue. What if all of our kids really are good at this? Why should our oldest two get such a huge advantage, simply because they were first? 

 

There are other issues that we could solve, but add some headache to our situation - we have one car, live 30 minutes from the gym, have all of the little kids around when taking older siblings to the gym. There's definitely a sense that it's not fair for the two little ones to spend a few hours of each day cooped up in a gym, even if I do read to them for most of that time. We do go to the playground, too, but the routine is wearing thin.

 

So, how does it work out for your families? I'm specifically interested in the experiences of other larger, middle-class families, but all opinions welcome :)

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I have one in dance and two in gymnastics but not serious yet. The dancer is serious and we are indeed making family sacrifices to support her. Regarding the time commitment, is there anyone your son could carpool with? Carpooling is the only thing that makes my dd's multiple classes per week possible, we also live far from the studio. With regard to cost, well, if you can't pay you can't pay. Sometimes a gym will work with you, especially if you have an exceptionally talented kid. Sometimes people work out a trade deal where they help clean the gym or do other work in exchange for lessons. My dad was a lawyer (a poorly paid lawyer...) and traded legal services for gymnastics classes for us when we were young.

 

Don't borrow trouble from the future. Deal with the current situation in the way that seems best for your family and face the questions of what to do as your youngers grow up when you get there.

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Is there any way you could drop off the older ones at their gym and take the youngers to something else nearby, such as a karate or yoga class or library?  Or perhaps you could run errands during that time (shopping etc.)?

 

My kids' classes are recreational, but they both do at least 7 extracurricular classes per week.  It's an interesting dance for all of us.  ;)

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Don't borrow trouble from the future. Deal with the current situation in the way that seems best from your family and face the questions of what to do as your youngers grow up when you get there.

 

Good advice. What they are as young children isn't necessarily what they will be in middle school or high school.  Mine certainly surprised me. Capture their passion now and see where it leads.

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I have four children as well but my youngest is the gymnast. He is now a level 8. Yes it is time consuming and expensive. He started gymnastics at 6 and has loved it ever since. He's 12 now. We just returned from his Regionals gymnastics meet. He needs a competitive and physically intense sport. He bounces off the walls when he has time off from the gym. Like your ds mine is small, flexible, and strong.

 

My advice is to not plan too far in advance. If it's working now then continue. We've been in gymnastics long enough to see many boys come and go. Boys lose interest or get injured. Family situations change or move away. Gymnastics has been a very positive experience for our son and family. I hope you all have the same experience!

 

Elise in NC

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Two of my three are in expensive, time-consuming activities they enjoy immensely. My other ds does his share of activities but just isn't as passionate about anything…he prefers to dabble a bit more. I used to get completely overwhelmed if I thought too far into the future but when the time arrived, more was do-able than I thought when thinking ahead.  I now take each decision as it comes based on what we, as a family, are able and willing to do. If there is some experience we feel as a family one of the kids should have, I try to find a way to make it happen even if I have to think outside the box.

 

My dd spent much of her baby-toddler time sitting in gyms at wrestling practices and tournaments. I made it fun for her by taking her outside to play, bringing special toys she only used while away from home, finding playgrounds or bookstores nearby we could visit while ds was practicing.

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Like Elise, my youngest is my gymnast.  The older three are old enough to stay home alone or even drive to their own activities.  So, it's a bit different.  

 

But, my three older boys row.  It's a HUGE time and financial commitment.  I was scared when they started because of all of the travel and how it would change our family dynamics.  Well, we just take the events and all as they come.  So far, it has worked for our family.  Spring is a VERY busy time as it's the height of competition season for both sports.  Again, we take it as it comes.  The boys can get themselves to and from practices, which helps a LOT.  Sometimes, we have to send them off to regattas by themselves.  Makes me a little sad, but texting helps us stay in contact.

 

Dd has started carpooling with four others from her gym.  It's worked SO well!  We also live 30 minutes from the gym, so it's a haul!  Is there anyone else from your area who you can share rides with?  That eliminates the waiting around in the gym for your littles.

 

I hope you figure it out!

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I totally get this. What I have learned over the years is that you just don't know what the future holds. Your financial picture could change and lessons for all 4 might become a possibility, your son could lose all interest in a couple years and it becomes a moot point, the gymnastic school could close and that is that. Your other kids might have zero interest in gymnastics.

 

Is there any chance of a discount or scholarship because he is a boy? We get a huge discount from the ballet school. Boys in ballet are like needles in a haystack, we pay only a small percentage of the tuition. I have been told in some larger cities where the competition for boy dancers is greater we would pay nothing. It might be the same in gymnastics. Boys in gymnastics aren't that common.

 

So, talk to them and tell them you are interested but the price is just too steep for your family. See if they come down if you say you don't think you can afford it.  If he is that good they should be willing to work with you. And FWIW, we have a very good gymnastics school in town. They have sent several students on to international competition. I have noticed that any kid that comes in with a decent amount of raw talent gets told their kids is Fantastic, A Talent that is Outstanding, etc etc.

 

And what is their connection to the larger gymnastics world? They are asking for a large commitment, but where does it lead? What path can they provide? Do the coaches there have connections to national organizations? Are they qualified to coach at that level? Are there other boys at the gym so your son can have a community? I know that my sons often feel a bit lonely in the ballet world. Are there older teenage boys at the gym? That will let you know if they are able to retain boys and if they are able to meet the specific needs of boy gymnasts.

 

And as for the time commitment, I haven't eaten dinner with my older boy in a couple years, lol. Well, on Sundays (not this week due to a performance), but our lives def. revolve around ballet. It is a challenge but it is also fun.

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I only have 2 kids and our dd being on team was a huge family adjustment.  Her schedule ruled our schedule.  When they moved to day practice b/c schools were out she had to be there.  Didn't matter our home school was still needing to do school.  Her schedule ruled our weekends.  And when she needed to travel it also ruled our budget.  Due to fundraising through Bingo, dh had to work every few weekends, often overnight.  I had to work meets we hosted and our gym hosts a lot.  I will say, our practices were 4 hour stretches so I never stayed.  And there are girls on the team with multiple siblings, often younger.  Yes, it's a choice for you to make regarding your family in regards to this one child who could do very well in this sport.  

 

I think you have to ask if you are willing to do that for just one?  What if another shows talent in soccer and is wanted on a travel team? Or volleyball and the only option is a travel team?  What if all 4 show excellence in different sports all needing the money and time devoted to them?  

 

We went in knowing it may not work for us.  I was concerned about the money aspect.  It worked itself out.  I was concerned about the fundraising and meet requirements, but it all worked out.  The gym has become like family and we enjoy doing our part for our dd in gymnastics.  

 

She has chosen to leave after this season.  She has had one mental block after another this year, and for a 10 year old, she's pretty stressed out right now.  It has been super hard to let her quit after all the time and money the family has put toward it.  Honestly, I will miss the parents and kids.  Dd is super excited about a summer not being at the gym 4 hours a day.  She can't wait to craft, swim, go to the theme park....and just be a kid.  I think she is realizing all she is missing out being so devoted to that sport.  It wasn't a waste.  I have seen her push through so much over these years...it's made her a better person.  And very in shape ;-)  

 

I think once you embrace the lifestyle you figure out a way to make it work.  But yes, with multiple kids I think you have to consider a few more 'what if's' along the way and perhaps draw the line in the sand and know ahead of time what you can and won't do.  No regrets here.  it's been fun.  And hard.  But worth every moment. 

 

 

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At one point, we had all five swimming competitively. Same team, but wow, a lot of money. I hear you about the "gift." We have one who is extremely gifted and driven and has made every coach she has ever had in any sport drool. The youngest coming up is nearly in the same category (probably the same). I believe that parents have a duty to protect and develop gifts.

 

Time has a way of sorting everything out. One season at a time. Now, I only have 3 swimming competitively. The other two found different paths, more suited to them. 

 

Everything changes, kids, gyms, coaches. Just do the best you can with the information you have right now. Then you won't regret what you do.

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We're not a gymnastics family.  Basketball is our "thing".  All 3 kids play competitively and LOVE to play.  My kids compete against the best players in the area and work hard to improve their skills.  My dh coaches and I manage 2 teams.  We're away from home 3-4 nights during the week and are playing league games and tournaments during most weekends.  With 3 kids playing, it's pretty expensive.  Dh and I have discussed that we should probably be putting the money into a savings account for the kids for college.  The money would be good to have- even just to improve our lifestyle.  We are very middle class- small house, older cars, no vacations, etc.  We've decided the benefits of the physical exercise are good for the kids.  Also, they are gaining some valuable life skills and character traits from playing a sport.  My kids are 11, 12, and 12.  There are definitely weekends where I would rather sleep in than go to another basketball game and there are things I'd like for my home or myself that I go without.  My kids will be out of the house one day, though, and I'll have time and money for those things later.    

Have you asked the gymnastics studio if there is a discount for mulitple kids enrolling?  Maybe they could work out a deal for you?        

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I also have a talented 7yo gymnast and dancer.  We make a lot of sacrifices because it is so expensive and time consuming.  She really loves it and works very, very hard, so we see many benefits to it.  Our problem now is choosing between dance and gymnastics. She loves both, she's good in both, she works hard in both, but the time and expense at the next level doesn't make continuing both a realistic goal.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut about how much you should sacrifice to nurture your kid's gifts.

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We are a gymnastic family. Until last season I had three gymnasts on team, levels. 7, 6 & 4. Now I am down to just my 11 year old who competed Lv. 8 this past season and my 4 year old who is in Advanced Tumble Bunnies. My other two former gymnasts have moved on to Cross Country/Tennis and Softball.  Gymnastics is terribly expensive at times, especially since my 11 yr old has reached the level where they travel out of state for many meets, but the dividends from the sport are definitely worth it. We actually left the girls first gym to train at our current gym because my 11 year, who was then 8 yrs old was singled out by the coach. She knew that she had talent that she was not going to get at that gym and urged us to look at the other local gym, 30 minutes away and a whole lot more money. I will say though, that was one of the best decisions we have made in my 11 year olds gymnastics career. She qualified for Lv 8  Regionals this year and has her sights set on being a level 9 come fall.

 

My 4 year old is petite and has very lean lines just like her older sister. Her coach wants to move her to the next level and place her in the developmental track. However, I am not ready for that yet, even if she may be. Compulsory competing age is 7 years old for girls and I am in no rush to get her on team. With this sport you have to be all in. I agree with Tess in the Burbs "I think once you embrace the lifestyle you figure out a way to make it work" and the gym does indeed become like a second family for you. It takes a lot of commitment on the child's part and the parents but I definitely say it is worth it overall.

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Over the years my kids have spent hours and hours at music schools, and yet we seem to enjoy ourselves (even when they're toddlers).  We do bring food, books, toys, games... We'd do these things if we were sitting at home, so doing them elsewhere doesn't seem to be an issue for us.  (We've done a LOT of homeschooling and reading on the road and while other siblings are in various types of classes over the years.  I think this is a common thing for any homeschool family with little sibs who does anything out of the house on a regular basis.)


 


As the younger ones have grown up, they've each come into their own and their own share of the extracurricular activities.  Luckily for us, as a little one is added to the mix, an older starts to cost us less.  That has just worked out.  Our oldest stopped studying the cello and switched to passions that cost us less (his choice) and (as it worked out) include scholarships and paid internships (wahoo!).  My second one has, luckily for us, gotten to a point with her talent/age where she has received a lot of scholarships.  She wouldn't be able to do what she does, musically, if that didn't happen.  My third and fourth are now starting to be the ones that cost us the money.  Ha!  I feel so blessed that it all seemed to work itself out.  I could have really stressed myself out, years ago, if I had counted my chickens before they hatched.  Things have a way of changing in life, and you never know what type of chickens you'll end up with, how many will hatch, or how many will still be chickens by the time you count them!


 


Try to enjoy where you and your kids are right now.  Live in the moment!

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As some of the previous posters mentioned it is hard to plan where kids interests and talents will take them.

 

In general, I would not start a high $$$ or high time schedule activity unless the child was really interested and committed. In the situation you described I would let the son continue and let the daughter wait until she expressed a strong interest. (just my opinion)

 

Both of my girls tried several different interests before settling on their main one.  I allowed them to try things, drop them if they lost interest and try something else. 

 

We ended up with two high $$$, high time, competitive programs,  :001_rolleyes: running in opposite directions. 

 

dd1 (now 22) - opera, piano camps (sorry no photo of baby grand in my living room, ha)

dd2 (now 20) - Hunter/Jumper equestrian (see above photo)

 

They were supportive of each other but it did not take long before piano girl refused to attend any more horse shows and horse girl said 'no more recitals'.  :lol:

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At age 7 I'd rather give him a broad range of physical activities to try out. Specialize in one sport when he's older. Gymnastics is an awesome activity to develop all kinds of strength, flexibility, body awareness, etc. but there are drawbacks to overtraining young children. Spending 2.5 hours 3 times/week of very strenuous physical activity can have negative effects on young children whose bones aren't fully formed yet.

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First, thanks for all of the thoughtful advice! I'm heartened to know that it just works out for most of you. I'm glad to know that my family won't dissolve into dysfunction if we stop family dinners for a while. 

 

For me, there's such a responsibility that comes with our homeschooling lifestyle. I get to know my kids so much better, but, as this "expert" I feel pressure (from myself) to meet their needs and interests as best as I can. But, that doesn't mean I have to know what the future will be, or to meet ALL of their needs. 

 

Sorry - nursing babe :) thanks again for the replies. I appreciate the feedback.

 

 

Don't borrow trouble from the future. Deal with the current situation in the way that seems best for your family and face the questions of what to do as your youngers grow up when you get there.

 

This is probably what I should remember. I'm just too much of a planner! Plus, I'm one of two children, and I was able to do the things I wanted to do growing up. My husband is one of four, and his youngest sibling to this day grumbles about a childhood spent on the sidelines and never having a chance to do her activities. I'm sensitive to the potential problems that going in this direction could create for our family. But "sensitive" shouldn't mean "dominated by."

 

 

Is there any way you could drop off the older ones at their gym and take the youngers to something else nearby, such as a karate or yoga class or library?  Or perhaps you could run errands during that time (shopping etc.)?

 

My kids' classes are recreational, but they both do at least 7 extracurricular classes per week.  It's an interesting dance for all of us.  ;)

 

We try this, but it fills only so many hours :) Plus we end up at the Trader Joe's around the corner, and those salted caramels end up in my cart every time. Wonder how that happens? 

Now that it's getting lighter later, we could spend more time at the playground. Partly, I have to overcome my inertia and load the other kids back in the car. I'd like to invent a self-fastening carseat for the toddler set.

 

 

 I used to get completely overwhelmed if I thought too far into the future but when the time arrived, more was do-able than I thought when thinking ahead.  I now take each decision as it comes based on what we, as a family, are able and willing to do. If there is some experience we feel as a family one of the kids should have, I try to find a way to make it happen even if I have to think outside the box.

 

I think this is where we are, tacitly, at least - we'll do it if we can, financially and otherwise. 

I'm afraid that this type of agreement works well for adults paying for classes and less well for children who take them. I wonder if my 7yo really understands what it means to start down a possibly exciting, rewarding track but not necessarily be able to complete the path.

 

We'll get a good taste of that conflict in the fall when town soccer starts up again. It will be interesting to see what kind of compromises he's willing to make on his own, especially since soccer is DH's THING and all of the walking children participate.

 

Is there any chance of a discount or scholarship because he is a boy? We get a huge discount from the ballet school. Boys in ballet are like needles in a haystack, we pay only a small percentage of the tuition. I have been told in some larger cities where the competition for boy dancers is greater we would pay nothing. It might be the same in gymnastics. Boys in gymnastics aren't that common.

 

So, talk to them and tell them you are interested but the price is just too steep for your family. See if they come down if you say you don't think you can afford it.  If he is that good they should be willing to work with you. And FWIW, we have a very good gymnastics school in town. They have sent several students on to international competition. I have noticed that any kid that comes in with a decent amount of raw talent gets told their kids is Fantastic, A Talent that is Outstanding, etc etc.

 

And what is their connection to the larger gymnastics world? They are asking for a large commitment, but where does it lead? What path can they provide? Do the coaches there have connections to national organizations? Are they qualified to coach at that level? Are there other boys at the gym so your son can have a community? I know that my sons often feel a bit lonely in the ballet world. Are there older teenage boys at the gym? That will let you know if they are able to retain boys and if they are able to meet the specific needs of boy gymnasts.

 

And as for the time commitment, I haven't eaten dinner with my older boy in a couple years, lol. Well, on Sundays (not this week due to a performance), but our lives def. revolve around ballet. It is a challenge but it is also fun.

 

I'm trying not to think too far into the future, but there reason I'm (minorly) panicking is because the boys' coach told me that there's a "real possibility" that my son would, at some point, need to move gyms, which for us is around 200 miles away. I'm not sure we'd see it that far. It sounds like exaggeration to me. Otherwise, our small gym has a lovely group of older boys who seem to get along well with each other and their coaches, and they participate in national competitions. I'm a neophyte in this world, so I don't have much of a yardstick to measure. 

 

I  think you have to ask if you are willing to do that for just one?  What if another shows talent in soccer and is wanted on a travel team? Or volleyball and the only option is a travel team?  What if all 4 show excellence in different sports all needing the money and time devoted to them?  

 

We went in knowing it may not work for us.  I was concerned about the money aspect.  It worked itself out.  I was concerned about the fundraising and meet requirements, but it all worked out.  The gym has become like family and we enjoy doing our part for our dd in gymnastics.  

 

I think once you embrace the lifestyle you figure out a way to make it work.  But yes, with multiple kids I think you have to consider a few more 'what if's' along the way and perhaps draw the line in the sand and know ahead of time what you can and won't do.  No regrets here.  it's been fun.  And hard.  But worth every moment. 

 

Well, that's what I'm asking myself :) 

I'm nervous that this opportunity for my son will suck the opportunities away from the others. I'm nervous that we'll be so busy shuttling to and from practice and whatever we do to keep busy during practices that I won't notice the skills or interests the other kids have. I'm afraid that the others won't have the space to discover those talents or interests themselves. I'm afraid I'll shunt them into...oh, cross-country running?...because it's cheaper and easy to get practice in while we're on the road. 

 

I believe that parents have a duty to protect and develop gifts.

 

Everything changes, kids, gyms, coaches. Just do the best you can with the information you have right now. Then you won't regret what you do.

 

Thanks. This is great to remember. I can't plan for contingencies I can't even imagine.

 

Dh and I have discussed that we should probably be putting the money into a savings account for the kids for college.  The money would be good to have- even just to improve our lifestyle.  We are very middle class- small house, older cars, no vacations, etc.  We've decided the benefits of the physical exercise are good for the kids.  Also, they are gaining some valuable life skills and character traits from playing a sport.  My kids are 11, 12, and 12.  There are definitely weekends where I would rather sleep in than go to another basketball game and there are things I'd like for my home or myself that I go without.  My kids will be out of the house one day, though, and I'll have time and money for those things later.    

Have you asked the gymnastics studio if there is a discount for mulitple kids enrolling?  Maybe they could work out a deal for you?        

 

The opportunity cost definitely scares us. This money that could go toward XXX - college? retirement? our house? It's not as if these fund would go toward lattes and manicures. (Sorry if that's your thing!) My husband joked that we're pre-paying for college tuition via some hopeful scholarship, but that's a bad investment if I've ever heard one. 

 

 

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Now that it's getting lighter later, we could spend more time at the playground. Partly, I have to overcome my inertia and load the other kids back in the car. I'd like to invent a self-fastening carseat for the toddler set. 

 

Why not just drop off the oldest kids and let them go inside on their own?  That way you don't need to get all the kids in and out of the car so many times.

 

Often when I have an errand to run during gym, I have to hurry as it's usually in another city.  So I just drive the kids (now 7) close to the door and have them run in as I zip off.  They are instructed to get dressed for home as soon as class is over, in case I show up a few minutes late.  Many parents do the same, with kids as young as yours.

 

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The mom I know who had 4 performing arts kiddos worked for studio her kids attended. That cut costs to almost nothing but her time. Since she had to be at the studio anyway, it was no big deal. Her kiddos were older, however, so there were no littles to watch. I think the youngest was 6 when I met her, Also, her kiddos were usually in class at the same time. But, it still put the family away from home 5 nights a week. Dinner was fish sticks or other fast food.

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I want to offer one more thing to consider and we found it to be good.  My dd is the younger.  My ds is often sullen/whiny/moody.  So it doesn't take any effort for dd to appear as a good kid.  With her being so active in gymnastics I have had 2 years of more time with my son.  More time one on one.  More time to talk.  More time to get to understand why he is the way he is.  And I appreciate this time we have had.  Yes, I missed my dd.  But she and I had plenty of cuddle time of the past 2 years in our own way.  But for my ds, that time of just us was needed.  Being able to hang with just mom/dad many nights has been good for our relationship.  He feels his sister is better in many ways.  Having us to himself was good.  And sure, I missed my girl at dinner...but I truly believe the extra time I had with my son has put us in a good place entering the teen years.  

 

So yes, you have this loss of time with your child.  Yes, dinners are different.  But try to embrace the opportunity to get more time with the younger kids.  It's different when other kids aren't there.  Make the most of that time.  Going to the park would be great memories for them.  

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I want to offer one more thing to consider and we found it to be good.  My dd is the younger.  My ds is often sullen/whiny/moody.  So it doesn't take any effort for dd to appear as a good kid.  With her being so active in gymnastics I have had 2 years of more time with my son.  More time one on one.  More time to talk.  More time to get to understand why he is the way he is.  And I appreciate this time we have had.  Yes, I missed my dd.  But she and I had plenty of cuddle time of the past 2 years in our own way.  But for my ds, that time of just us was needed.  Being able to hang with just mom/dad many nights has been good for our relationship.  He feels his sister is better in many ways.  Having us to himself was good.  And sure, I missed my girl at dinner...but I truly believe the extra time I had with my son has put us in a good place entering the teen years.  

 

So yes, you have this loss of time with your child.  Yes, dinners are different.  But try to embrace the opportunity to get more time with the younger kids.  It's different when other kids aren't there.  Make the most of that time.  Going to the park would be great memories for them.  

 

This is a really good point. I'll be with my baby, but also my trying SPD 3.5 YO. I love him to pieces, but he's hard to be with. If I reframe our coming situation as "a way to spend healing time with my son" I can see it as a net positive for our family.

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