I overheard my girls talking about a game. They were playing house – which is relatively difficult when all you have is three sisters. Once, one of them even chopped eight inches off of her own hair in order to “be the prince” for her princess sister. Well, there is still some dispute about who really cut those locks, but I suppose that is another story. Anyway, the game. This house-playing was online. Child number three said, “I have three moms!” Child number two said, “My mom never plays.” Child number one said, “I only have one mom. She is always busy.”
My mom never plays. I only have one mom. She is always busy.
It was as if the Lord was speaking audibly in answer to the previous week’s parenting prayers. Conviction stopped me dead in my busy-making business. The foremost characteristic my oldest daughter recognizes in me is very likely that I am always busy. I am. Guilty as inadvertently charged. Translation: The foremost characteristic that my children likely recognize in me is that I am often unavailable.
Now, before I make the mistake of assuming that busyness in the household is all bad, let’s just clarify that it can also be good. When mom isn’t available to meet a child’s every need, the child learns independence, responsibility, and how to be resourceful. There are good reasons to allow children to figure things out on their own when they are capable. I am, proudly, in every sense of the term, a free range parent. However, that is not the issue I’m dealing with today.
I always say, “Don’t take me to the beach.” I just cannot sit still. It drives me nuts to not be doing something on my almighty list. I like to spend time making plans so I have a plan and a plan for my plan. Without structure I often feel lost and become extremely unproductive. Not to mention the fact that the things I am busy doing are needed, necessary things. Four kids, house, lawn, business books, bills, devotional time, exercise, writing, reading, groceries, cooking, etc.
We all know how life goes. It is busy. But how do I determine what becomes too busy? I cannot sacrifice purpose and priority for perfectionism on the perfunctory.
They say some of what children learn to become is taught to them but even more is what is modeled before them. In other words teaching kids about the importance of exercise does not have the same effect as them seeing and watching us exercise daily.
So, on one hand I am thankful that my kids will (hopefully) learn not to be idle, lazy, and unproductive with the time given to them. On the other hand I am concerned that they will be so busy with the details of life that they will miss the major and the minor moments meant to be experienced and enjoyed. Just. Like. Me.
Just like me? Is that me? I wonder.
I try to find balance in all of life. I do. I evaluate and reevaluate. I do not see where my time management is mediocre. How can I fix this busyness problem when I know the vast majority of what I am doing is absolutely necessary for the health of myself, my family, and my household? I do not believe I am slacking and I only have one speed: GO!
When I think on how to “fix” this, I find that the root problem is not in what I am doing. I do not think most of that can be altered. The change must come not in what I do, but in how I do it. I believe the Lord is calling me to change the way in which I do the duties that he has so graciously given me.
Instead of cooking dinner while the kids play without me, I can include them in finding a new recipe, prepping the ingredients, preparing the meal, and setting the table. Instead of mowing the lawn while they watch TV, I can have them pick up trash and sticks in the yard and rake up behind me. Instead of working on bookkeeping while they incessantly whine about wanting to shop, I can teach them to sort and staple receipts with a reward of shopping afterward. Instead of asking them to be quiet when I am studying or writing, I can have them write their own ideas during that time. Instead of going to the gym alone to swim laps, I take them all with me and they swim, too. Most of these ideas we have already touched upon, but it is more a matter of discipline in continuing with those methods and enforcing them.
I have found that my issue is not a matter of wrong priorities or wasted time, but a lack of creativity and direction in guiding them in how to follow suit as they are here with me day in and day out. The things I must get done are not wrong, but it is the fact that I am often failing to teach my children to do them alongside me that has been misplaced. Let’s face it, I can do everything myself – and more efficiently to boot – but what I cannot do is do everything myself while the kids play video games if I want to end up with hard-working, resourceful, responsible time managers who understand my deep care and concern for them.
Therefore, over the past couple weeks since school obligations have dwindled almost to an official finish, I have begun praying about how not to lose my mind with ipod-less children. I have begun placing a higher expectation of “help” upon my children. Since then, they have successfully weeded our flower garden, washed dishes, swept and vacuumed, cleaned their rooms, put away laundry, given the dogs a daily brushing, taken care of their baby sister, and started their own blog sites.
I just cannot allow my kids to miss out on life on account of our culture’s obsession with technology. If they do, it will be no one’s fault but my own. I cannot allow myself to miss out on my children on account of my own ambitions being more easily accomplished without their help. If I do, it will be no one’s fault but my own. Both trends are equally destructive. As a society, we need to think about how to avoid these traps. I believe the first step is figuring out how to best befriend our own families amid the busyness of life.