“Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” That may have rung true for Bess in Porgy and Bess, but summertime is anything but “livin’ easy” today. We have a constant rush of activity, even in the”long, lazy days of summer.” Children have swim practice, soccer practice, hockey conditioning, baseball practice, band camp, dance class, football conditioning, etc., etc. etc. They may also have church activities like Sunday school, church camp, youth group, mission trips… Then you add in special camps like piano camp, football camp, wrestling camp…the list goes on. Of course this does not include your usual family activities of cooking, eating, cleaning, yard work, shopping, traveling to and from the myriad of activities…. I am growing tired just thinking about it. No, “livin’ ain’t easy” today; it is rushed, busy, hectic, and even chaotic. Unfortunately, all this busy-ness means we find little time to enjoy one another’s company in the family. The busy-ness robs us of the opportunity to sit down and talk, to learn about each other, and to grow more intimate. It keeps us from the spontaneous tickle match or the leisurely sharing of intimate conversation about relationships over an ice cream cone. Family intimacy suffers in this busy-ness; and family separation grows. Family members begin to live parallel lives. Or, we share functions rather than relationships. For instance, parents serve the function of taxi-driver or cleaning service rather than the role of parent, intimate mentor, and loving disciplinarian. The children are kept busy, but never get the opportunity to learn how to manage their time, involve themselves in family life, or relate in casual, unstructured conversation. Somehow, we have to get back to some “easy livin'” but it will not happen unless we make an intentional effort to “slow it down.” One way to “slow it down” is to become more conscious about the activities in which each family member becomes involved. To become more conscious about the impact of one activity on the whole family, consider these questions:
· How many hours does the activity require?
· How much time will you need for preparation and practice of this activity?
· How much time will it take to drive to and from this activity?
· What is the parental commitment to this activity? Do you have to attend all practices? Games? Recitals? Can you car pool?
· How will this activity and the activity’s schedule impact your meal times?
· Will this activity impact vacation time?
· Will this activity impact any holiday plans?
· How does this activity impact your children’s down time or hang out time? Your down time?
· How will this activity impact your other children’s schedules? For instance, will little Suzie have to attend all of her big brother’s games? How much “passive involvement” time will that mean for her? Or, will you have to hire a babysitter?
· What is the goal of involvement in this activity? What character trait or virtue do you hope to develop through this activity? Perseverance? Teamwork? Sportsmanship? Focus? Fun?
Reviewing these questions for activities under consideration can help you make a more conscious choice about balancing involvement in activities with family life and development. Hope it is helpful.