Allyson set me straight. Yes, life is the same in Omaha. There are the same traveling baseball leagues available to both her sons. And the same pressure to put your children in them. At 10 and 8 they could be playing year round. She has chosen not to do that...yet. She is smart enough to know not to make blanket decisions before an actual decision needs to be made. She looks at each son individually, at his talents and interests. Yes, one may be interested and skilled enough to play traveling ball and enjoy it. The other...not so much. Different gifts are emerging from him.
I hope she didn't feel like I was grilling her about her parenting choices. I am intrigued by how parents are
asked daily to make so many decisions about their children that have to do with play or enrichment activities. And how these decisions are presented by our culture as the most important decisions a parent can make. Really?! Traveling baseball for an 8 year old?! The most important decision?! (Because if you don't start him now he will only be that much more behind the others later....) Aren’t the most important decisions the ones that bring you closer together and bring you to the heart of your family?
Allyson asked me about my job at the church. We talked about how I love to get in conversations with parents about this very thing. Certainly in the context of making choices that have to do with their family's church attendance and encouraging their child's faith formation is part of it. Enrichment activities are encroaching on previously set aside time and days when it used to be looked on that families would go to church or at least have some down time together. It is not only sports.
As my daughter was growing up I tried to make intentional decisions in regard to her activities, our family time, and participating in things that reflect who we are as a family. My hope is that now as she is making decisions for herself at college, she is also intentional and thoughtful about with whom and how she spends her time. You see it is not only about the actual decisions we make as parents that are important. It is modeling for our children how to make thoughtful healthy decisions as well. As our children get older, it is important to bring them in on this process. So that when they are launched into the world they have the skill set needed to make thoughtful decisions that are good for them. They probably won't like it all the time. We don’t. Living intentionally is difficult sometimes. Making the right decision for you and your family is not always the easiest route to go.
Maybe the right decision at this point in your child's life and for your family is that they have to miss church and go to their soccer game on Sunday morning. That decision can be less painful (and less guilt-ridden for some) if it comes from the heart of the family and not because the coach gave an ultimatum.
So I guess we all won’t be running away to Omaha for the simple life. Maybe we can have at least a glimpse of the simple life here. What would happen if all family members cleared their calendar and went apple-picking or carved pumpkins together for an afternoon? Sound too much like Little House on the Prairie for you? I know
families who do that - not every day but enough. They are intentional about the time their family spends together. And as I watch them and hear them talk about and to each other, there is a connection. They are close. They are operating from the heart of their family.
(If this subject interests you, read The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today's Families by Mark Hyman. I highly recommend it.)