Thanks for joining us!
Is All the Busy-ness Necessary?
"All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children." Isaiah 54:13
I raised five kids who were active in everything from music lessons to soccer games. At times we spent more time away from home than at home. I wasn’t kidding when I told people we lived out of the van. We had snacks, drinks, changes of clothes, water, wet wipes, and shoes of all kinds and sizes mixed throughout car seats and school bags. We were a busy family, and I often bragged about it; I was a proud mother of busy children.
Once or twice a year we would have some down time - a break when there were no sports, scouts, school, or music lessons for a couple of weeks. Those were the aaaahhhhhh times. Those were the be-at-home-as-a-family times. Those were the times I wondered, “Can our life be more like this, somehow, someway? Do we HAVE to be so busy we live out of the van? Am I being a parent or just a chauffeur?”
It’s easy to get caught up in the “busy-ness” of kids’ activities.
As parents, we want to support our kids’ growth in all areas of their lives - we want them to be well-rounded individuals. As kids get older, they start discovering their interests and talents. It’s also when families start getting caught up in it all. Before you know it, you’re living out of the van, and asking the same questions I did. So what can we do to make sure we don’t get so caught up in activities, we don’t have time to be a family?
Limit activities to those that are the most beneficial to your kids.
When we moved from Southern California to Eastern Idaho, we were 19 miles from the nearest town and school. We went from a 9-5 town-living lifestyle to a 10-12 hour farm-living lifestyle. This forced us to evaluate which activities were priorities. We still wanted our kids to have a variety of interests, but we couldn’t be “running to town/school” two or three times a day. Here are three questions we asked and how we answered them when limiting activities:
1. Would the activity help our children grow spiritually and emotionally? We wanted our kids to develop values and habits that would help them withstand the pressures of their growing-up years. We wanted them to develop peer relationships that would support those values, so they would become strong individuals, ready to take on their roles as adults. We decided church youth group and girl/boy scout activities helped with that goal, so they went to the top of the list.
2. Would the activity be something our children could continue to enjoy as an adult? Music is important to my husband and me; we began playing instruments as children, and we find great joy playing them as adults. We determined each of our children would find an instrument that would give joy throughout life. It took some experimenting, but each of them plays at least one instrument, and music lessons or school band went next on the list of priorities.
3. Would the activity allow our children to develop an interest based on their personalities? We determined each of our children could pursue one other activity that they enjoyed. Those activities were as varied as our children, but we asked them to limit the chosen activity to just one thing that truly interested them. I have to admit, it took some experimenting, but each of them found something they really loved doing. This focus allowed them to become very skilled at what they liked most, and it also gave us more family time; when we realized not everyone needed to be involved in all the same things, our running around time was cut considerably!
When we no longer lived in the van, I was no longer a chauffeur - I became a parent.
We used to spend so much time “getting to” activities, we had no time “be” anywhere. I was so involved in hustling around, re-stocking the van for the next round of activities, I wasn’t really involved in my children’s lives. Coaching them to do better at sports competitions was my only type of teaching moment, and helping them find the seat belts made up the majority of my supporting moments. My conversations with them were limited to, “Hurry up, we’re late” or “You must have left your [whatever] in the van.” My help with their school work amounted to shouting ideas through the chaos to the back of the van.
It was only after circumstances forced us to limit our activities that I felt I had more time to be the mom. I could sit and listen to kids read aloud or help them focus on homework at the table. We had one-on-one time over inside or outside chores where we talked about their school and peer concerns. I was more involved in their lives than ever before because I had time to really share the moments of their lives. I finally realized being the busiest mom in the neighborhood wasn’t necessarily something to brag about - being truly involved and present in my kids’ lives was!
What about you? Have you felt your family is too busy? What have you done to take the busy-ness out of your family life? We learn from each other, so share with us!
Melody blogs at thewordwisewriter.com. You can follow her on Twitter @wordwisewriter.