A Life Bulging with activity nearly became a trap for our daughter. Rebecca had a natural flair for gymnastics, and I loved watching her perform. But as she progressed in her skills, Dennis and I became concerned about the amount of time she was expected to practice.
She would go to the gym after school and not arrive home until 8:30 P.M.—three days a week.
It seemed like she spent more time with her coach and team than with us. And progression to higher levels in gymnastics meant she would have to be away from her family even more. We knew we needed to spend more time with her as she approached adolescence.
On top of that, our oldest daughter, Ashley, was about to enter her senior year of high school, and we didn’t want our family fragmented during her final year at home.
When we talked about this with Rebecca, she responded by talking about how much she loved gymnastics and about her dreams and aspirations. Yet we could also hear the quiver in her voice that said, “I miss you too.”
After much prayer, agony, and discussion, Dennis and I decided it was time for Rebecca to quit gymnastics. Few decisions have been more difficult. We know other parents have made the opposite decision, and with a different sport or differentcircumstances, we might not have asked Rebecca to quit.
The bottom line, though, was that we wanted a relationship with our daughter, and we knew that a strong relationship requires time. We wanted our lives and values, not her coaches’, to be the major influence in her life. To continue equipping her for life, we needed Rebecca to be an integral part of our family. Real values drove our decision.
Busyness is a trap that snares many a child and adult. We are a hurried, exhausted, and weary culture. Too many children today are close to overdosing on activities. The opportunities for them to try new things, explore their interests, and develop their abilities and gifts seem unprecedented in history.
Dr. Paul Gabriel wrote in Anticipating Adolescence, “Time is needed in these years for leisure, for playing alone and with friends, for allowing the imagination to expand and life to become fuller and more interesting. Without it, social and emotional growth are stunted.”
Many parents, however, fail to give their children this needed leisure time. Instead, the after-school hours are filled with one activity after another. Then, as their oldest child emerges from the golden years, they are unprepared for how this busyness will affect the entire family.
If you don’t get on top of this—especially if you have two or more children close in age—your schedules (yours and your children’s) are on a collision course. You will crash. You will be heard mumbling, as you make your fifth taxi run some afternoon, “This is crazy. I’m going insane. How did I get myself into this? We’re never home any-more. We never sit down and eat dinner together. This is destroying our family.”
As children proceed through the teenage years, the problem only grows worse, especially after a child earns his or her driver’s license. We know of many families who allow their children’s schedules to control their home life to the point where they rarely ever share a meal together.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with an active life, as long as families maintain the right perspective. Idleness is just as bad as being too busy. Solomon warned, “Through sloth the roof sinks in,and through indolence the house leaks” (Eccles. 10:18, NRSV).
Yet the opposite problem—frenzy—creates a disturbance in our minds and souls that makes it hard for us to “be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Do you know how to be still? Does your child?
Set the course for your preadolescent child while you still have control of the schedule, knowing there is a time around the corner when the activity monster will barge through your front door and eat your time and resources.
The child’s weekly schedule needs balance.
Observing a day of rest is a good first step. But the concept of appropriate pacing, with ample time to be still and reflect on what life means and where the child is headed, also needs to permeate the regular routine.