As I watched my kids at basketball practice this week, I found myself amazed at how time has flown by. It is as though you blink and those little babies are grown. Because time is quick and family is important, maintaining balance and health in the family dynamics is utterly important. But it is hard! Finding family balance in a busy week is tough and it seems to be getting tougher.
I hear questions from young leaders and pastors frequently asking about how to maintain healthy rhythms in the home. Frankly, I am glad and encouraged to hear this question and see the concern on the faces of leaders.
Melissa has spent more time in the home than me during this season of our lives. She is active in helping me at work when time allows, volunteers at our church and in a local non-profit in our community, but sees her main responsibility to maintaining a healthy environment in our home. I have a pretty extensive travel schedule that can easily become a distraction to family life. Melissa and I have and continue to work hard at creating a stable and healthy environment for our family to flourish. Below are some principles that help guide us in this endeavor.
1. Be willing to say “no” to good things
This can be very hard to do and sometime can even feel painful. Partly because if you are like me, I want to grab a hold of any good experience when it comes and I especially want my kids to have every opportunity that they want. I want my kids to have a full palette of experiences and to be exposed to many different things during their lifetime. At the same time, you don’t want them to miss out on fun with their own friends that you know have a way of filling the emotional cup of your kids.
But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decision for your kids and even for the sake of your family that your kids aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. One question we regularly ask ourselves is “Is this wise for our family or for this particular child today?” Though my kids are still in my house I can see from friends around me that the days when your kids are in your house are precious and they disappear very quickly. Thus, your kids need you! More at this stage than ever. They need your influence and leadership and they simply need time with you. So ask yourself…what is the greater good - another sport, another activity, another evening out with friends, or more time with you?
These are things that only you can decide for you and your family. Everyone around you and in your ministry will make demands of your time. As a result, someone will have to be disappointed. Do you want your family and kids constantly disappointed or others? I want to suggest that it is ok from time to time to use the word “no.” It is actually vital to providing stability and balance in the home.
2. Be intentional with your time
Because time is limited it is important to find how to make time work in your favor. What I mean is many times the lack of intentionality can cause one to lose valuable time in the home and in building relationships with your own kids. I found out the hard way how important it is to put my cell phone down when I walked in the door after a long day at work. My tendency was to drive home trying to make one more connection and I would walk in the door and unknowingly ignore the greeting I was receiving from my kids welcoming me home.
That realization, with the help of my loving wife, caused me to change my routine when I get home. Now I stay in the car until that last phone call is finished and the moment I walk into the house I place my phone in a drawer so it isn’t a distraction. This simple discipline has helped me control my time in a way that honors my kids and our family time.
Be intentional in the time you invest in your marriage. There should be times that you intentionally shut everything down just so you stay connected. The time you take off from a very busy schedule is hard and can feel painful, but it is life giving to the marriage.
I try to spend time with my kids in the things they are interested in doing…not trying to make them like what my interests are. When opportunity allows it I even allow my kids to take trips with me. This gives us great one on one time together. When we travel I like to find a fun unexpected way to connect to the heart of my kids. This can play out in renting a sports car to drive around or taking them to their favorite restaurant. I have even surprised my son with a fun fishing trip while in Seattle and as a result he got his first experience of hooking a king salmon.
3. Live and lead creatively
Find moments when you are together with your kids or as a family to use teachable moments. Swim together. Shoot baskets or throw a ball together. Include your kids in home projects. Learn to use breakfast time, dinner time, bedtime, and car rides - whatever time brings your way, whatever it takes, learn to use the time you have with your children well.
When it comes to raising a busy family there isn’t one moment that we can afford to spare. Not even one. It is hard work and requires intentionality and creativity. But I have found those moments are so worth it and really fun. Every time!
When it comes to teaching your kids about God and connecting with his heart, we have been extremely intentional that we want this to be natural and part of our regular life discussions. We pray together regularly and we allow our kids to feel the weight of things from time to time and to pray with us through those challenging moments. We talk about God, God’s Word, principles of life, and values that we hold dear as Christ followers.
It doesn’t take a lot to have a captive audience. I know every time I sit in a hunting blind with one of my kids or every time a ball is in the air, I have a captive audience.
I am finding the time is passing quickly. I imagine you are seeing the same trend. Work hard at it. Find balance. There really isn’t anything more important.