Monday, March 28, 2011

Scheduling Yourself Back into Your Best Life

(Tyler's missions trip with OnGoal Soccer Ministries, 2010)

There are so many opportunities these days, both for kids and adults. A few years back, my family was so full of activities that they not only filled every day, but overlapped. There was recreational and competitive dance classes, premier soccer, sports in every season, instrument lessons and homeschool group outings. Two parents trying to get three kids where they needed to be every day. It was crazy!! 

I really don't think there is anything wrong with any of the activities we were doing. But I began to feel like we were losing more than we were gaining. So I began to pray that God would not only lead my husband and I in wisdom, but also lead through the desires of our children. (I realize that last half of my prayer seems a bit risky but it was what I felt I needed so I asked...)

One day, I was listening in to a dance workshop my daughter was taking. She was about 9 years old. The dance teacher was asking the kids why they wanted to dance. I was shocked at how well my daughter understood her own goals. I really didn't think at 9 that she would have that kind of clarity and be able to express it. That gave me an idea...

A few weeks later I made up a questionnaire for my kids concerning their activities to provide a spring board to discuss how we were spending our time. I don't have that original questionnaire but here are the types of questions I asked:

1. List all of your activities.

2. Which are your favorites?

3. Are you doing these activities just for fun, or do you hope to make a career from them?

4. Are you glad you are spending every day doing these activities?

5. Would you like to spend more time or less time on your activities?

6. Do you wish you were doing different activities than the ones you are doing? If so, what?

7. Do you wish you had more time to spend with friends or are you happy with the amount of time you spend with friends?

8. Do you wish you had more time for Youth Group and church activities?

What I found was exactly what I was feeling myself. My kids wished they had more time for friends and church activities. When friends gathered at the church or beach or park, we were too busy. My oldest could not attend youth group. Even though we would forego games played on Sunday morning, we were all still missing out and we all felt it. We had to often race out right after the service ended. One of my children admitted that he only had all those activities because if he didn't he would spend his day being dragged around to everyone else's activities. 

So I made a promise that if we would prioritize and give up the activities that were not that important, that I would spend the same time and resources on helping them make relationships. The time and money commitment was similar but now they were being spent on the things that were actually important to us. It took a lot of discussions and some time, but slowly we were able to end those things that just didn't have enough meaning to us and build what was.

Now I am just going to be honest here... It is easier to maintain activities than it is relationships. Relationships are messier. If you want to go to soccer camp, you pay the money and show up and you get to do what you paid for. My kids were good at the stuff they did so it all came pretty easy. Relationships and spending time with people was/is more of a challenge but so much more rewarding for us. 

They've also gotten to be more involved at church. They're availability means they don't have to miss out. They can take a youth missions trips or learn the sound system in church or take care of the cute little kids or play in the band or a host of other great opportunities. They are available to be mentored as well. 

For our part, my husband and I try to always be the ones willing to drive. I don't get upset to do the driving. After all, I was the one trying to get all 3 kids at 9 activities at once! Compared to that, this is a breeze! I don't mind being the one to feed the crowd. I used to be the one paying for all those activities. This is way less expensive! 

Do they still have activities outside of church and friends? Yes, they do, and I am glad. I love getting to know the people in my town and I love watching them do the things they love. But, it is in perspective and they're only doing what they truly love and we've all learned to set the boundaries over our time and ultimately, our lives.

I am glad for that time in our life when we were running around like chickens. It taught us all what is important and what we really wanted. I can say first-hand, that if the track you are on feels harried and meaningless, it's never too late to get off the train!

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