You know what’s the best? When you have a message that’s on your heart…and then it continues to resurface all around you. It’s like that message is giving you gentle reminders you’re on the right track. Let me tell you what I’m talking about.
Just yesterday Alan and I were having a conversation about Marley (our 12 month old daughter) and her future involvement in sports. Before I go further, let me just tell you that Alan and I have both been known by our involvement in sports. AND I’m tired of it. I didn't dislike my involvement in sports. It's just that I struggle when I'm presented as one-dimensional...and when kids today are pushed to specialize in EVERYTHING. I’ve been around so many teens who are scheduled to the max that they don’t seem to like much of anything they’re involved in. Many are quite miserable. As a therapist, can you guess which demographic I see most? It’s teens. And it’s for depression and anxiety.
So as I’ve been internally pushing back against this trend of “too much” in the hearts, minds, and schedules of teens…and talking through things with Alan what we want things to look like in our own family, I read THIS:
“Consider that unrounded kids are pretty awesome too. Violin lessons for focus, team
sports for persistence, tutoring sessions for perfection, and other activities to round out our kids go on and on. We are creating resumes for children for a life they probably don’t want. Kids and parents are exhausted. Pick one activity instead of all the activities. Instead of making kids well rounded, let’s make them loved and loving.”
Yes, please! Can I get an “Amen??” Ah, that was music to my ears. So, how do we do this? How do we start changing the level of involvement in our families? Here are some tips.
1) Become aware of why you’re doing what you’re doing. We can get on a roll and then forget to question where we are going or why we’re doing it. Let me give you an example that I just realized about myself yesterday. I was listening to a book on tape called “Slow” by Brooke McAlary…she just had one comment about looking back on her life and said, “You know, I probably won’t care how flat my stomach is post baby when I’m reflecting on my life.” And there I had it. I was totally caught. But it made me question why I had been so focused on that very thing. When I stopped to ask myself “Why?”, I found out it was so much about what others would think. Would my husband still be attracted to me? Would others think or say things like, “Wow, Amy doesn’t have her athlete body anymore? She’s not as skinny as _____ is after they had a baby.” And I had certain people in mind who would be throwing those judgements at me. YET, when I thought about it, and asked myself what the flat stomach means to me, I realized I didn’t actually care about it all that much. I feel healthy. And that’s what’s most important to me. I’m eating pretty well, getting in some physical activity, sleeping enough. I call that a win. No, I’m not doing workouts on par with my college athletic days, but I really don’t care. Truthfully, I have no interest in doing those workouts! So, all this to say, ask yourself why you’re putting the events and commitments on your family’s schedule. Become aware if it's for you or for others. Is it out of fear? Out of anxiety? Be aware of the emotion behind why you're signing your kid up for something and that will tell you a lot.
2) Be aware of “keeping up.” Are you comparing to others at a play date? Are you living by those ugly “shoulds?” Are you reading about developmental milestones, realizing your kid isn’t quite there? Here’s the thing, I want you to throw it all out. As I’ve been reading about children (babies-teens) a lot of the things we try to do to urge development along don’t really work. Humans develop when they develop. And, if you’re noticing a major mood change or behavioral change in your child or teen, author Kim John Payne of “Simplicity Parenting” suggests we do the opposite of keeping up, he suggests schedule a break...a major one. Take your child out camping, cancel all commitments for a few days, call off work. He compares the treatment of emotional and mental overwhelm kids can face to that of a severe illness. When your child gets the flu, you give them time to rest and you tend to them. He suggest the same thing with emotional and mental overwhelm. When keeping up has you all exhausted, stop trying to keep up and take a break.
3) Be aware of what IS most important to you, and see how your calendar matches that. Is family most important? Ok, how is your calendar matching that? Do you have time blocked in for family time? Or are you running from event to event? This is an invitation to be more intentional about what you say “yes” to. Just because you receive an invitation does not mean you have to say “yes.” Learn to say no…a lot.
Join me in raising unrounded kids! I believe if we become conscious of what we're doing we can add a lot more joy to parenting and reduce a lot of stress. Part of conscious parenting is becoming aware of our own wounding so we don't act out of a wounded place, but more out of a healed and free place. Isn't that a nice place to parent from? Healed, free, loving. I certainly think so :) Happy rooting, everyone!