My family doesn’t do a lot of running. No, I’m not talking about running in a marathon, although that would be a true statement as well, I’m talking about constantly being on the go. I hate being overly busy and never getting down time at home. Occasionally we can be that way on the weekends if we have a lot of errands to do and too many commitments. We end up eating out too much and wasting too much money. Then we come home exhausted and on Monday I am left with a huge pile of dishes in the sink and a messy house because we were home just long enough to make a mess, but not long enough to clean it up.
I look at these families that are constantly running and wonder how they have quality time as a family. At my house we eat dinner together almost every night. We spend the little time in the evenings after dinner and before Creative Kid’s bedtime doing activities together, most frequently playing games or watching movies or videos together. I cherish this time together as it’s the only time through the week that my husband gets to spend with Creative Kid. I hope when my son is an adult he looks back on this time and has fond memories of the time we spent together, not that we were always on the go.
Don’t get me wrong, we have our busy times. We’re very actively involved in our church which includes small group, food pantry, bible school and various other areas of service. We also find activities for Creative Kid to participate in, for example earlier this year he did a 7 week session of swim lessons and soon we will be starting him in some form of Karate. However, we have made a rule that we will only have him doing one major activity at a time and I like to take breaks between them. Creative Kid doesn’t like to do a lot of running around either, so I don’t think he would want to be on a crazy running schedule anyway.
Speaking of schedules, I am also a schedule person. Creative Kid works best on a schedule, as most kids do. On the weekends and vacations, we relax our schedule a bit, but for the most part Creative Kid has a bedtime of 8 p.m. He gets up in the morning with us or shortly after us at 6-6:30 a.m. When he is ‘off schedule’ too much it shows in both his behavior and waking up in the middle of the night (how do you act when you don’t get enough sleep?). It is important that children get adequate sleep and we prioritize that over additional activities that might conflict with our evening routine.
I think back to my childhood and don’t remember us being always on the go. We made a grocery trip once a week, we went to church and church activities and did occasional shopping trips when necessary. I was the youngest of six kids with a wide age span. I don’t have many memories of us all under one roof as the older ones graduated and moved out, but even when there were only 3 of us my parents didn’t have us in a bunch of activities. We didn’t go have organized play dates; we went outside to play and played with kids in the neighborhood and if no one was available, we played by ourselves or read a book. Occasionally we spent the night at another child’s house…that was the extent of our ‘organized’ activities.
To some that kind of upbringing now might seem boring or isolating. But you know what I do remember about my childhood? My mom doing crafts with me and playing games with me. I remember sitting around the table to candlelight playing games when our electric went out during a storm (we lived in the country). I remember watching lots of movies together, reading together and playing together. We played with our pets and all helped out in planting and tending the garden each year. I remember not having a ton of money to go do things, but that I had everything that mattered….a great relationship with my mom and dad. And the times where we did go somewhere special…it was exactly that, special. I remember those times because they weren’t just taken for granted, they were something to plan and look forward to and to savor.
We’re in a very different place financially than my parents were. We are blessed and can afford to do regular vacations, trips to kid-centered activities and any classes or activities we would want Creative Kid to attend. We can afford to waste money going out to eat too much and spending too much money shopping. And while we do give Creative Kid lots of special experiences, I am mindful that simply being together does not equal quality time.
If most of the time we spend together is shuffling in and out of the car, it’s not quality time. If there are hours of time where I just simply sit on the sidelines watching Creative Kid attend a million activities, that’s not quality time. If we never eat meals together because we’re all running on different schedules and have too many commitments, how close can our family bond really be? Is that really quality time?
It is natural for each generation to ‘want better’ for their kids. Wanting more opportunities and experiences for our children in hopes that it gives them more opportunities and a more fulfilled life as adults sounds logical. But I am not convinced that making our lives and our kids lives ‘busier’ equals a higher quality of life, more well-rounded adults or happier kids. In fact, I think all that busyness often has the opposite effect, creating kids (and ultimately adults) who don’t know how to just be happy with themselves, who are consumed with material things and jealousy, or who tie their self-worth to how socially active they are….instead of in who God made them to be.
Thanks for reading!