The following is a short excerpt from my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases this Fall. I would love your comments about the hard choices you have made to maintain sanity around your kid’s schedules. What mistakes did you make? How have you found safe rhythms for your home?
A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s
just that it can’t buzz any slower.
Practically speaking, my observation is that when kids are never taught how to appreciate healthy rhythms, once they escape the frenetic pace their parents have maintained on their behalf, they rebel like Rebellion is their middle name. Busyness has become their business, and when that busyness disappears, they don’t know what to do with their lives. They don’t know what to do with an idle thought, let alone an idle day. To this point, writer of “The Busy Trap” article Tim Kreider: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.” Most people who suffer from rickets are kids, and most kids who get it are starving. I realize that in twenty-first-century North America, a majority of kids are not starving from food, but I guarantee they are starving for something—for calmness, for quietness, for rest.
When Pam and I decided back when our kids were young to unplug one day a week, it was a counter-cultural move, to be sure. Unlike nearly every other toddler we knew, Abram and Callie were not in gymnastics classes, dance classes, horseback-riding classes, foreign-language classes, art classes, etiquette classes, or classes that taught taekwondo. As three- and five-year-olds, they were not on soccer teams, basketball teams, debate teams, cheerleading squads, or in science clubs, and those tiny fingers never played piano once. Sure, various activities would emerge as they got older—including basketball and taekwondo. But in those early years, even in the face of mounting pressure, we chose to simply stay home.
In 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the apostle Paul writes, “I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.”
Keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Dealing as sparingly as possible.
Huh? Is this really possible, Paul?
Pam and I decided it was. And we ordered our lives according to that truth. We let the hyper-scheduled families zoom right past us, while we stayed hunkered down inside our peaceful home. And you know what? We were better for it. We recognized how well our kids did when we didn’t have plans for them on those days. We saw that if we gave our kids time and space to breathe, to exhale, to just be kids, they flourished. From time to time, we wondered if they were missing out on something—if by not learning an instrument or a foreign language at age three, they’d somehow suffer later on. But by the end of each bedhead day, we’d have our answer again. A day of rest was pure benefit for them. “Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day,” writes Katrina Kenison, “they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.” There was nothing for Abram and Callie but upside, by our choosing not to run ragged, by choosing to live joyfully at rest.