This fall our family said no to soccer.
We’ve been participating in a local league, hosted by our church, for years now. Every fall, every spring. But this fall we’re opting for less running. More evenings home. More together, less apart. And the change seems lofty, ideal even.
I dream of slower afternoons not dictated by practice schedules that somehow funnel the stress into the earliest hours of our day.
No more games, less laundry, and fewer water bottles. Less rushing past my husband, doing the divide and conquer when we have meetings or other obligations. Fewer dinners that are half-hearted, half-baked, half-eaten.
It sounds lovely.
But then a different part of my heart speaks up.
How will my kids feel when everyone else is at practice? Won’t they be missing out? Isn’t the exercise good for them? Aren’t they making great memories, good friendships, learning teamwork and cooperation and so many other worthwhile skills? Will they be left behind if we take a season (or more) off?
This basal and guttural fear comes out of nowhere. It is like an uncontrollable instinct as I nurture these little humans into adulthood.
I want what is best for my kids and I’ll endure almost anything for it. Somehow that instinctive nature, formed at conception, keeps revealing itself in new, not always healthy, ways.
And the trickiest part is that we are not always fighting the bad here – we’re sifting out good things, boiling down to the best.
But how do we equip ourselves to do that? How do we fight the busy our culture has become accustomed to, the busy that seems so natural, necessary even, and choose what is really best for our families?
Don’t believe lies
They sneak in quiet, changing our mindset while we barely even notice – our kids need these things, right? They need family time, faith, physical fitness, friends and fine arts – socialization, schooling, and sports. They need healthy meals and happy memories. And down time.
There are an endless number of things we want our children to learn and experience, but our resources are not limitless. We are believing a lie when we live like they are.
“But they like it…”
I’m surprised how often we use this excuse for over-scheduling. Our tendency to give our kids good gifts is innate, but it is also our responsibility to steward that in light of the bigger picture. My children like candy, but it is wise for me to help steward their consumption. Our decisions must be governed by more than our children’s preferences.
Weed out selfishness
Selfishness makes an appearance in our parenting more often than we realize. We want to live vicariously through our children. Maybe we want to give our kids the childhood we did or didn’t have. Either way, our experiences, and preferences have a huge impact on how we lead our own family.
The good news is God chose you as the parent for your children. He designed this to work! Weeding out selfish interests that do not benefit our family goals means inviting God into the process – asking him to help us lead and choose the activities that are best for our family in this season.
The good news is God chose you as the parent for your children.
Establish your vision of home
Proverbs 29:18 tells us where there is no vision, the people perish. Might the same be true for our families? If we don’t define what we are running toward, which values and priorities will become the framework for defining our family life, we will be swayed by trends, by culture and by fear rather than faith.
Retain the right to say no
Far too often we forget that this is an option. The activities our children participate in cost our families time, stress and money. Saying no is a viable option and there is a point where it may be your best option.
Remember this is a season
I would be foolish to say my kids will never play soccer again. They might play soccer the very next season. Our schedules change as do our priorities over time. But choosing rest (or busy-ness) one season at a time helps us make decisions best suited for where our family is right now.
Prayer will always be our most effective tool in leading our families well. This is not an after thought. This should be an every thought. Can we pray without ceasing for our families? Are we praying that God will lead us in growing and shaping the hearts, minds, and bodies of the children he has placed in our care? Are we brave enough to pray that he will give us peace as we make decisions and convict our hearts when our decisions are out of alignment? Prayer will always be our most effective tool in leading our families well.
Our decisions are both less important and more important than we can imagine. Will one soccer season too many (or too few) destroy our children? Of course not, but each and every decision we make is leading our family in a particular direction. The things we say yes and no to are writing our family story; they are defining our memories, our time.
May we make these decisions intentionally, trusting God to help us lead our families wisely each and every step of the way.