“If not the rat race, then what?” a friend wrote me after my last blog. She was in agreement with me that foregoing good things may be the best thing for our kids. She agreed that the normal pace of life for the average American family was too full and too frantic with an endless buffet of activities—preventing all of us from drawing near to Jesus. But she wondered, what do we families—we who are committed to keeping Christ at the center and living a slower pace to see and savor good things together—do for our kids? How do our kids learn skills and participate in activities with their peers?
My friend lamented that families no longer typically live near one another. Our kids aren’t in a context where they can learn to cook from a grandma, to garden from an uncle, to play the trumpet from an aunt. We no longer tend to live near loved ones and in such a way that skills and knowledge are passed from one generation to the next.
Her question has had me thinking for a couple days and I’ve been messaging her portions of a response as they come to me. Parents who desire to forego many good things (activities, sports, clubs) for their kids for the best thing (knowing Jesus) need to be prepared to do two things: be willing to live counter-culturally and be prepared to set goals and keep them.
First and fundamentally, parents who choose to raise their kids at a slower pace and who reject the American norms are going to be seen as strange. It’s simple, but important to acknowledge from the outset—if you choose to live this way, you’ll be seen as different at best and negligent at worst. Parents will simply have to accept that perception of themselves and will most likely have to recommit themselves to what matters each season when new opportunities crop up and appear to promise their children all matters of success.
Secondly, moms and dads should communicate with one another often about their overarching goals for their kids. What do they want their kids to be like when they’re grown? What values do they want to pass on? What skills do they hope their kids will have? Then, working backwards from their goals, parents can build into their children what they value. These goals may evolve, but they will provide a framework for making decisions each season. They will give parents the power to say yes to what matters and no to what doesn’t. Without these goals in mind, parents will likely chase one activity after the other in hopes of satisfying a felt need within themselves and their kids for meaning and an ever-elusive but undefined success.
The goals we have for our kids will not come to fruition unless we make space for taking the steps to reach them. For example, if we want our kids to strongly identify with our family and feel warmly about family time, then we’ll have to work at making family time consistent, meaningful, winsome, inviting. If I want my daughters to have a deep understanding of the Bible, then reading the Bible together on a regular basis will have to be built into our schedule. If my husband wants our kids to be avid readers, then reading time will have to be planned for. If I value drama, piano, athletics, whatever—my husband and I will have to communicate to set those goals, make time in our schedule, make space in our budget, and be willing to forego good things to seek what we’ve determined is the best thing.
Tomorrow I will share some of our goals for our kids and the practical steps we’ve built into our lives to reach them—not because we’ve done it perfectly by any means—but to simply share with others for brainstorming and edification and to remind myself of what matters.