The Art of Being

The Art of Being September 14, 2012

We are in full swing into the new school year with classes starting and sports and activities filling our afternoon schedules.  It is a bustling lifestyle and one which my kids seem to enjoy.  They love taekwondo and the discipline and focus it demands.  They greatly enjoy soccer and the chance to run around with their teammates in the fresh fall air.  They don’t like piano, but they are doing it anyway.  Mom’s request.  Learning a musical instrument is a lifelong skill and a gift they can pass onto others.  Add onto that reading and homework, daily piano practice, at-home FIRE catechesis on the weekends, and we are busy little family.  (Don’t remind me that these activities only involve 2/5 of my children.  I am fearing the day we are all in motion!)

If we’re not careful, though, this busyness can become addictive to the point of over-scheduling.  Just last week the older boys came running home, telling me of some new after-school programs held on Tuesday afternoons.  My oldest wanted to do a Lego-building class and my kindergartner, a football clinic.  I hesitated knowing Tuesday afternoons were already quite crammed in our line-up of activities, but I could see their excitement and knew they were eager.  We sat down and looked at the calendar, talked it through with Daddy, and allowed them to sign up, knowing some of our activities quiet during that season.  It is definitely proving to be a challenge to maintain a balance and it’s only going to get worse.

Even yesterday as we readied to head out the door from piano lessons to taekwondo, the boys looked at me with pleading eyes and asked to go outside and play with the neighborhood kids.  It was a beautiful afternoon and I could tell they needed free time.  Yes.  They could go.  And we all breathed a little sigh of relief, I know.  Time to breathe.  Time to drink in the afternoon.  Time to be.

Back in college, I remember a classmate’s mother constantly reminding him to “Be” and not always “Do”.  Such genius.  Up until that time, I don’t think I recognized how little I allowed myself to just “be”–to think, feel, pray, quiet.  I was guilty of this as a youth, so its not surprising I’m having to hold back again as a mom.  Beyond kids’ activities, I’ve packed my day with errands and home-maintenance, laundry tasks and feeding children.  Am I also taking enough time to” be” or always plunging into the next thing?   St. Matthew writes of this:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Perhaps as we entrench ourselves in the new academic year, we also need to carve out precious time to sit on the porch and enjoy the fall weather; to pray peacefully in the stillness of the morning; to think and ponder without the nearest hand-held device to occupy our minds, hands, and time.  For our world is one that is constantly in motion, but we need to be warriors for peace; warriors that “be”.  And not only that, we need teach our children how important rest time is in the balanced equation of life.

 

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  • Kellie “Red”

    I agree with what you wrote above and I can attest to your crazy college schedule! But I’m curious as to how on a practical level we can encourage this in our family life. For us, we have tried to keep Sunday as a day free from regular activities, but that will become much more difficult once our oldest son starts playing travel soccer (they play on Sunday). We have also tried over scheduling on one day so that we have a completely free day during the week. We just experienced this free day yesterday and it was very refreshing. It becomes a day to play in the yard, play with neighbors, draw, have a playdate with friends, or just have some down time. It seems like with a large family, you almost have to schedule time to just “be.”

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    We also have “free” days on Mondays and Wednesdays, which are perfect balancers. Though how will a weekly schedule look once the other kids have activities. It would seem logical for me to spread the activities out throughout the week so we can actually do it all. Hmm… I wonder if it gets easier as the kids get older and you don’t have to tote everyone to every practice. For now, it might mean hiring a sitter to stay home with the other kids to preserve everyone’s sanity and peace. I’ve also let some play outside under the watch of a neighbor while I run a child to practice, toting the babies too. It’s a balancing act, for sure!

  • Adele

    I agree that it’s really important to keep Sundays free of commitments. Too many people think Sunday is a great day to schedule things because “people aren’t doing anything else, anyway.” We are doing something–we’re resting! I know that for some, watching a soccer game on a sunny fall day does feel like a break, but not for a busy large family where you’re entertaining toddlers, the baby’s missing his nap, etc. I hear moms complaining about this all the time, but unless we speak up, nothing will change!

  • JMB

    While I think it’s good to keep children active and busy, I personally regret all the time and money I wasted when my children were little on activities that have made little difference in their lives in a positive or negative way. If I had to do it all over, I’d do less with the kids. Or, I’d start things a little later. For example, the two loves of my son’s life – football and wrestling, he started later than most of the boys in town and stuck with it even though he lost most of his matches and sat on the sidelines on football because he didn’t understand the plays. What we’ve seen over the years is that kids burn out, they drop out, they decide they hate it, hate the coaches, hate the practices, hate the time involved and when they should be playing football or whatever, they are sitting in their basements playing XBOX live. I made the mistake of pushing one of my daughters in ballet because she demonstrated some talent – guess what, now at 13 all she wants to do is anything but ballet – she has a closet filled with not cheap demi pointe and pointe shoes, tutus, jazz shoes, tights, leotards etc.. All I can think about now is all the $ that we’ve wasted over the years. Children’s activities are big business and everyone knows that parents will shell out big bucks for their children. I’m not trying to sound like Debbie Downer over here, but I think it’s prudent to ask yourself as a parent – where is this leading to? Is is necessary for my child’s well being and happiness and development to be spending his or her free time pursuing this?

  • Katrina

    JMB, I always appreciate your insights as a mom who has kids that are older than mine! I struggle because we have chosen not to start certain activities yet, but I wonder if it’s going to be “too late” once we finally do begin. Your comments give me hope!

  • Kellie “Red”

    Another way we have limited the commitments is not starting the younger children until they are older. We resisted t-ball, we resisted soccer for our 4 year old, etc. Every little thing can help. But even with that, we are going 5 days out of the week ;-(

  • Kathy

    Hi Builders – I realize that this link has nothing to do with the post (Sorry) – but I thought you would like to know that Fr (now Msgr.) Tom will be honored at the Eucharistic Congress in NJ in October.
    -Kathy

    http://www.trentonmonitor.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=137&ArticleID=3982

  • Kellie “Red”

    nice Kathy! Thanks!

  • Kerry

    So timely for me….I’m totally debating a little flowers girls club for my new kindergrtener. She’s in full day school and I see how. Ery badly she needs her down time at the end of the day.
    But it’s such a good program!!! So hard to decide….

  • Laura Kasemervisz

    This is an excellent post! I think all moms can relate. I’m in the same boat with only 2/5 of my kids doing much outside activities yet, and already we feel quite busy. And this is with me saying ‘no’ to many things and for the most part, sticking to one activity per child. I’ve found so far three things that have helped me with this struggle: remind myself to be in the moment; remember that a ‘no’ to something is a ‘yes’ to something else; and take comfort in sequencing (just because the answer’s not now, doesn’t mean not ever…for example, I’ll let the kids try something new/different in the summer or take a season off from sports now and then…I’ve noticed this helps with their not getting burnt out and their staying grateful for what they get to do).

  • Pam B.

    Our kids are 16, 13, and two 9 year olds. I totally agree about waiting until they are a little older and not pushing them. Our rule of thumb to help our family schedule is that each child gets to pick ONE activity for the year. This gets slightly stretched with the occasional overlap of one activity ending as another activity begins, but on the whole, we stick to this policy. Just because it is a “good” activity, does not mean it’s necessary to add into our schedule. I do NOT want to be a mom who runs the kids from one activity to the next. They need free time to create & play and Moms need time as well. Otherwise we will end up exhausted & resentful and not providing our kids with what they really need–nurturing, love, safety.