“Soccer mom” is the modern stereotypical term that describes moms who spend a majority of their day driving their children to a myriad of activities. I applaud these hard-working women who successfully raise a family in such a hectic modern world. Despite modern conveniences that are supposed to make life simpler, the average American soccer mom (and dad) is busier than ever. My wife and I have found ourselves among these activity-driven families.
We have access to automatic dishwashers and laundry machines. We have Amazon delivery to our homes. We can even order groceries online and have them delivered to our house. It seems like these advances would help us parents, but year after year I have heard parents gasping for breath as they come up for air after an exhausting week of music lessons, soccer games, tutoring, karate, and robotics clubs.
Part of today’s crisis of busyness is the plethora of activities that students can participate in. From athletics to music and dance to martial arts, there are so many choices today for after-school and summer activities. Extra-curricular activities abound in any public school district or private school in the United States. Popular varsity sports like soccer, football, volleyball, and basketball are the norm at American high schools. The academic student might join an academic quiz team or an honor society. Musically talented students have opportunities to join school bands, choirs, and orchestras.
Schools do not hold a monopoly on activities. Depending on the size of the community, parents can find opportunities for their children in local drama, music, 4-H, and the martial arts. This does not even include the many wonderful positive activities that churches plan for children and teens alike. Churches plan mission trips, youth group meetings, and local volunteer outings. All of these things are a source of pride and enjoyment for the all-American family. A child and his or her parents could be busy every night of the week.
What is a parent to do? I have always liked the idea of parents seeking out the one thing their child is good at and encouraging them to focus on it. It may take participation in several activities or hobbies before children or parents figure it out, but one activity done well or done with a specific purpose is better than multiple activities that exude too much stress on children and parents. In too many cases, children can become overwhelmed with activities that may not even be enjoyable to them in addition to squeezing out quiet times or worship opportunities. I know this is not an easy task. It is fraught with many difficulties.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I agreed to encourage our two sons to play only one sport at school. This did not mean that they could not try out for the occasional school drama. It just meant that when it came to something that consumed multiple evenings a week, we were not going to push our children to have this schedule for every sport season. For example, our youngest son played with plastic balls almost as soon as he could stand up in his crib. As a toddler, he had a small basketball and hoop. He shot and made baskets from across the room at the age of two years. It was easy for us to place him in church Upwards leagues beginning in Kindergarten. When his peers and coaches asked him to also play soccer, we did not pursue it. Providentially, he was not interested either.
God blesses parents with children, but it is a serious responsibility to train them to know God for themselves. Part of this responsibility should be modeling church attendance and appropriate quiet devotional times despite a busy world. Most of my married life, we have both held jobs. This alone makes for a hectic schedule most days, and a frantic schedule during basketball season. Carving out church attendance, devotions, and family mealtimes is about all we can muster during the basketball season. I am sympathetic to parents who have multiple children in multiple activities, but all of us can afford to spend more time cultivating our relationship with God.
Unfortunately, our busy lifestyles can also result in unhealthy habits. Many times my family has found ourselves eating fast food in the car three or four times a week. Besides being expensive and unhealthy, this does not allow the opportunity for the family meal at the kitchen table. There is something about pausing to thank God for your blessings, partaking of a meal, and discussing the day with your family. We need more “time-outs” like this. Maybe that is why God tells us in Psalms 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God” (NIV). Dragging around all the baggage of worthwhile but less eternal matters is not always conducive to worship, prayer, or meditation that are all keys to our relationship with God.
We may not all be called to be full-time evangelists tasked with winning the world to Christ, but we can influence our families in ways that have an eternal impact. This is one. Parents, let us encourage our children to put their relationship with God first. Then, look for the natural talents in your child. Choose one, and encourage your child to do that one thing well.