Lately, Adrian and I have been talking about how to schedule activities for our little people. Not just how, but if and when and why. With a first grader, the opportunities and invitations for extracurricular activities are already plentiful, and many of them are things I would love for our daughter to try and experience.
Yet, we’re already feeling a pull to fill our lives crazy full of activities. And if we wanted that, I guess there wouldn’t be any tension here. But it comes back to that whole intentionality thing: simple living means living life on purpose, not letting life happen to you.
As a youth pastor, Adrian’s seen a definite trend over the past ten years towards busier families that don’t have time for much of anything outside of their kids’ after-school schedules. There is a strong trend towards families attending church one to two times a month, often times due to a sports schedule that takes precedence over Sunday morning service.
The thing is, we don’t think any of the activities are bad in and of themselves. We know sports and music and theater and art and all these things are generally healthy for kids. We are seeing, though, that if we desire to live a simpler life, we have to make choices that are intentional now. In Organized Simplicity, Tsh Oxenreider writes:
Kids in today’s generation have nowhere near the amount of free time their parents and grandparents enjoyed in their childhood… I wonder what our children’s memories will be when they reflect on the their upbringing- an innocent time full of play and exploration, or the booster seat on the way to ballet practice? I’m not denouncing these activities–truly. I’m referring to the amount of time spent on these extracurriculars compared to the time devoted to just being a kid.
So, how can we parents find a middle ground between healthy involvement in extracurriculars and straight up crazy busyness? Where do we draw the line? How much is healthy for our family and how much is too much?
Here are some points for consideration as you seek to strike a balance that works for your family:
1) Who are the people speaking loudest into your children’s lives? For some, I know this very question has led them on a journey to homeschool, and I commend those who’ve made that choice. For us, we feel confident that at this point in life, we are just where we’re supposed to be in the public school system. And we still feel that we are able to greatly speak life into our children and be their foundation. But we must ask ourselves, are we so busy that our children’s coaches and teachers and peers are the loudest voices speaking into their lives?
2) Will this activity add to or subtract from your mission as a family? There might not be an easy answer here. For instance, if your family vision statement is “to love God and love others”, adding gymnastics practice to your schedule isn’t automatically in or out of that vision. You may need to dig a bit deeper. Of course, answering this question assumes that we have already developed our vision or purpose statement for our family. If you have not yet done that, read this post on writing a family purpose statement. I also recommend Kat Lee’s Mission Statement for Moms ebook, which is free when you subscribe to her site.
3) Do you know your limits and have you set boundaries accordingly? Each family is different and each person can handle varying levels of chaos and busyness. The point is, know your parameters. Where do you draw lines in the sand? For example, we participate in a life group on Tuesday nights. We consider this an essential for us and our kids, so we may have to say no to activities that fall on Tuesday nights. Know the non negotiables ahead of time and stick to your priorities.
4) Are you confident in your authority as the parent, even over coaches? Here’s the thing, parents. YOU are the parent, not your child’s coach. This may sound silly, but we see it a lot with our teens. I’ve played on a team before, so I know this goes against what we typically hear in competitive sports. I’m not suggesting you set out to be a pain in your coaches side or that you should teach your child they can break commitments; but I am suggesting that you are still the parent, that you know your child, and that it is OK for the needs and priorities of your family to come first.
What challenges have you found in scheduling activities and keeping boundaries around your time as a family? Share your tips with us!