It is generally accepted that kids pretty much do what their parents model. This is the reason so many alcoholics had an addict for a parent, why people from broken homes are more likely to divorce, and why very generous, giving people often had parents who modeled philanthropy. That is why it scares me when I see parents modeling an example of busyness for their children.
I have so many friends who answer the question “what’s going on” with “BUSY!” What they usually mean is that their weekdays are filled with the demands of work, coming home to run kids to practices, slamming down some food real quick, running to a church committee meeting, sitting back down at their computer for another 4 hour shift of work, and falling asleep in their chair. Then, of course, they have to follow up that relaxing week by filling their weekend with travel sports, neighborhood events, more church meetings and socials, working on plans for their side business, and more work. I know this to be true because I’ve done it myself.
It is scientific fact that multi-tasking is not physically possible (http://www.livescience.com/37420-multitasking-brain-psychology.html). If you don’t have time to read the whole article, I’ll just pull out the quote that is most relevant here:
“Once you start to make things more complicated, things get messier, and as a result, there’s going to be interference with one or more of the tasks,” Meyer said. “Either you’re going to have to slow down on one of the tasks, or you’re going to start making mistakes.”
This is not only true for driving and talking on the phone. It is also true in our lives. Every time we add another responsibility, club, committee, work assignment, or kid’s activity to our lives it carves out a little bit from our personal and spiritual health, our marriage, our family, and our job. These things are already difficult, but when we take these little bits of time away from them, ‘either you’re going to have to slow down on one of the tasks, or you’re going to start making mistakes.’
What can we do about this? There is a lot of cultural pressure in this area, I know. We can SAY NO and be an example of balance and healthy state of mind for our kids. Yesterday, I was asked to become the Chair of my local chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. This would have been a huge honor, and I was flattered. I have served on the board of the local chapter for 2 years and love the work we do. But I had to SAY NO. I had to say NO because it would have meant at least a couple of more meetings a month into my work week, juggling my already hectic work and travel schedule to make meetings a top priority, and responsibilities to lead a team that would have required additional attention in the evenings and on weekends.
I had to say NO because I’ve been down this road before and I’ve seen the consequences. I’ve seen what happens when I try to start a small business, teach a college class, serve on multiple committees at church, and volunteer for everything my local service organization throws at me. I did that for awhile and I started making mistakes. I started ignoring my marriage, over-extending the financial capabilities of my small business, not focusing on important things at work, and being absent from my kids’ lives. It didn’t take long for those mistakes to catch up to me.
So, I’ve protected my Saturday (see above). I’ve protected it so that I can model quietness, stillness, and aloneness to my kids. We’ll sit around and read, or play outside. Maybe we’ll go to the farmer’s market or on a bike ride. I’ll go for a run completely alone with no phone, no kids, no distractions and reflect on the week and give thanks for the peace. I’m certain my kids won’t miss any opportunities to earn a Division 1 scholarship because we say NO to busyness this weekend, and I hope they’ll grow up to be mindful and focused adults because they have seen me become a better model for them in those important disciplines.