On the way home from soccer practice last night, my son asked if he could join a track and field team. This is right after an evening in which his mother spent 30 minutes shuttling him from his school to my workplace, where he worked very hard for 60 minutes on his homework, before we frantically sped home to quickly change clothes and scarf down some dinner, followed by a 30-minute battle with traffic to get to his 90 minute soccer practice, followed by a bleary-eyed 30-minute drive home. The timing of his request was terrible, so he was hurt by my harsh response.
I had to explain to him that we just don’t have the time and energy to add that sort of commitment to our family life. It was difficult for him to believe. It’s a lot like when we say that we can’t afford to buy something, such as a massive plasma TV. He doesn’t believe me because he knows that we can afford a house, cars, food, clothes, and all kinds of other expensive items. So, I have to explain that we have to make choices because we can’t buy it all or do it all. We have limited resources: time, money, and energy. It’s hard for a kid to fully grasp the concept of over-commitment.
We live in a society which says that you CAN do more, own more, be more… of everything. Much of that is good. We are a can-do society, and that drives us onward and upward in many ways. However, there are some very negative consequences to this drive for more, more, more.
We are tired, exhausted, fatigued. Young people, even as young as five years old, are too busy. They have school, church, organized sports, music lessons, homework, and lots of media. They are too busy to play with their overabundance of toys. Since their parents are the same way, it’s a trickle-down effect. Too-busy parents make kids too busy.
Over-commitment is to the soul what monthly payments are to the budget. We are writing checks over time that our body, mind, and soul cannot pay for in full. And many of us are doing this to our kids. We set them up with too many good activities to the point at which it’s no longer good; it becomes stressful, exhausting, and unsuccessful. Our kids end up doing a whole lot of things pretty poorly.
The antidote is rest. Real rest. Everybody knows that, but we’re not doing it the right way. We rest insufficiently. In his book The Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelley says, “The rhythm of life is the perfect combination of rest, activity, and pace. It empowers us with a certain clarity of mind and peace of heart. We make a thousand lifestyle choices every day which either create or destroy the natural rhythm of life.”
Consider making some real changes to improve the rhythm of your life. Here are four suggestions to seriously consider.
First, we need sleep – real sleep – every night. Sleep-deprivation is rampant. Check this out if you’re not so sure…http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct01/sleepteen.html It’s a problem for me, and I know it’s a problem for many of my students. Many of us are just showing up – often late and not able to give our best. Matthew Kelly says, “Sleep should be used offensively, not defensively. Sleep is intended to make us stronger, more vibrant, more productive, more loving, and more alert.” Consider improving your sleep habits.
Second, we need real rest once a week. A true sabbath. Our kids need one day off per week, and so do the adults in their lives. We need a break, a nap, a real rest once a week. An ancient Greek saying says that you will break the bow if you always keep it bent. Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for the good of man (Mark 2:27). Consider making a sabbath that is extremely restful a part of your weekly routine.
Third, we need time to reflect and pray. We need some time each day to consider our activities, our priorities, and our problems in the peace and quiet of God’s presence in our lives. Study after study has shown the healthful value of meditation and prayer. Consider praying quietly a part of your daily routine.
Finally, we need to be less busy by deliberately limiting our obligations. Many of us are over-committed. We have signed up for too many weekly and daily activities which each require significant time, energy, and /or money. The parts exceed the whole, and our families are suffering for it.
Kids who grow up over-committed will struggle with that for life. They are being programmed to live this way at a very impressionable age, and many of them will never get out of that rut. Consider limiting your commitments and those of your children.
Matthew Kelly says, “Our modern culture proclaims with all its force: what you do and what you have are the most important things. This is a lie. Who you become is infinitely more important.”
Let’s show our kids the riches of a life well-lived.