"Hurry up. Put on your coats. Where are your shoes? Stop whining. Get in the van. Let's go!"
Does this sound familiar? I wonder if the quality and value of sentences spoken to your children is an appropriate indicator of a need for change? When things get busy, we become stressed. And if you are anything like me, when you are stressed, your words don't come out nearly as kind or as well thought out as they should!
It's odd.. we live in a rich nation with so many modern conveniences designed to make life easier, and yet we are busier than ever.
I'm on a quest to simplify. I know that there has to be a way to slow down, take my time and enjoy life with my children. It seems but a moment ago that I, nearly a child myself, held my first baby in my arms and thought that I had a lifetime ahead of me. Now as the years slip through my fingers like tiny grains of sand, I'm stunned at how much there is to do, with so little time!
A couple of years ago, I heard a very wise woman (a mother of 10) speak about raising children. One of the points she made was: "You have all the time you need to do exactly what God has planned for you."
Could it be true? Can we really get everything done that we need to do? I think that's where we need take a long, hard look at our priorities and figure out if we're on the right track or not.
We spend so much time rushing about, trying to do "stuff", and the question I'm asking is "Why?"
I've been reading a great book by a family psychologist, John Rosemond called: "Family Building - The 5 Fundamentals of Effective Parenting". Right off the bat, Mr. Rosemond attacks the family schedule. Are you doing too much as a family? Are your kids doing too much?
When I look at our schedule, I see quality activities. Gymnastics, Piano, Violin, AWANA (a church based Bible club), and swimming lessons to name a few. Multiply that by the fact that I have 4 kids old enough for extracurricular activities and it makes for a very busy schedule, which has to be perfectly balanced with no hiccups along the way or we'll be late for a lesson! Am I a super-mom to be able to handle this sort of life with so much to do, or am I just crazy? (I'll admit, there is a little of the former and a lot of the latter.)
I want to give my kids the opportunities that I never had. I want them to explore their talents and gifts, and to thrive! I, like many other parents out there, want my children to have the best life possible and to be happy.
Now hold on a moment. Therein lies the problem. I don't want to burst the bubble, but life isn't necessarily about ensuring happiness and having everything work out well. My job as a parent isn't to come alongside my children and make sure they have everything they could possibly want, a rich variety of experiences - fun and festivities at every possible moment. My job is to train my kids. To raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord - at least that's the promise I made when I dedicated them before God and my church family.
To make matters even more sticky, I'm not so sure I ascribe to the Disney princess theme that we seem to have heard from more than one heroine "All your dreams can come true". Why are we telling our kids that the world is their oyster and not explaing that oysters require some serious force to break into, and not every oyster contains a beautiful, costly pearl? In fact, more often than not, you are going to rough up your hands and get cold and wet harvesting oysters, then you risk cutting yourself when you pry it open, then... if you are lucky, you will end up with a swallow of dubiously delicious "sea jello", if you're into that sort of thing! (I tried them once, and I'm not sure I grasped the culinary appeal nor experienced the aphrodisiac qualities that is claimed to be produced by eating raw oysters.)
It's not that I don't believe in "dreams". But I wonder if we are falling off course by spending so much of our lives and providing great experiences for our kids. How much is too much? If we list all these "accomplishments" (things like: music lessons, soccer, hockey, art class, pony club) and grade ourselves as parents based on what sort of amazing life we are giving our kids, what does it really accomplish in the long run?
Activities are so much easier to use as measurements in the so-called quality of your parenting than the things that really matter. When I think of my past week of taking care of my kids, and whether I've done a good job or not, it's easy to just think of all the places I took my kids, and all the activities I let them be involved in.
When I begin to think about my children's hearts, and the sort of individuals I would like them to become, I find those activities lacking in the depth of their substance. Of course they are not wrong or evil in and of themselves, but when your live is so tightly wound by activity... something is going to suffer.
I believe that my previous paragraphs have sufficiently established a case for doing less. Perhaps there are families out there that can juggle their schedules enough and not suffer in the richness of their family culture. Yet I am craving a more calm, relaxed life. One that does not hurry the kids to the next place or event. I wonder what life could be like if we did not have to rush.
I don't know exactly the course of action I will take - and if the chopping axe will immediately cut some activity from the family calendar. However, this issue is in the forefront of my mind and I'll be prayerfully considering ways to protect our family culture. I believe that as a family, we should not be defined by all the things we do, but that as a family we can just BE together. I believe that in this "quieter" (figuratively, not literally) state, we will be more open to quality conversations. The elimination of much of the hurry-induced stress will allow for me to lead my kids and mentor them. We'll bake more, read more, cuddle more and most of all, weave a beautiful tapestry that defines us as FAMILY.