Tuesday, September 4, 2012


When, recently, I raised my hand and  shared some of the following ideas in a  time management class at Women's Conference, I was surprised at the huge response there was to some of the ideas I shared..... After the class a working single mother told me of her struggles of making sure that she had enough time with her kids in the evenings.  Another told me about how she worried that her grandchildren were being so overwhelmed with evening activities that she was concerned for their family's well being.  In short, I got comment after comment about how overwhelmed their families were with trying to do it all and how intrigued they were with our balanced and simplified approach of helping our kids TO BE instead of TO DO (I love that general conference talk). 

A few years ago we were overwhelmed and running a million miles an hour almost every day of the week.  It was to the point where we were eating dinner later and later in the evening (often fast food),  our scripture study was suffering, and we were all exhausted.  And the weekends were even worse.  Saturdays were spent trying to cram all of our yard work, attending the temple together, doing our chores, and the kids' activities all into one single day.  In addition to dreading Saturdays with every fiber of my being, I would often end the weekend far more stressed at what hadn't gotten done that what actually had. 

Somewhere in that stressed out/ zombie period of my life, I realized that there was one big common factor in all this overscheduling....our kids' participation in community sports.  With five kids, it was taking over our lives.   Not only were the practices right smack  in the middle of dinner hour scattered all over town during rush hour,  but the Saturday games at variable times and places through the day were the main culprit for our weekend craziness as well. 

Finally, I asked myself what it was all for. 

Yes, I wanted my kids to BE fit.  But, seriously,  who the heck grows up to play soccer or tee-ball as a way to stay fit as an adult anyway? 

Yes, I wanted my kids to learn to BE a good sportsman.  But was getting yet another  trophy to clutter up the shelf with after  every single season, no matter the team's skills, really the sportsman message I wanted them to learn? 

Yes, I wanted my kids to have experiences that challenged them and helped them to grow.  But, was it worth it at the expense of having a stressed out family that barely spent any time together? 

No, no, and NO. 

And with that resounding NO in our heads, we simply asked ourselves, what do most adults do to stay fit?   

With the answer to that question...walking, running, riding bikes, rollerblading, going to the gym, and playing tennis...we started simplifying.    It has been a gradual transition, but over time we have moved away from enrolling our kids in community sports very often and have instead sought out opportunities for them that we feel will be far more valuable in helping them to develop into fit, strong, and confident adults  than several seasons of soccer participation ever could. 

How has it gone? 

Two words:  LIFE CHANGING! 

Emma and Adam take group tennis lessons...at the same time, at a nearby park, with an experienced teacher.    Two kids at once.....AWESOME! 

Emma and Adam also participate in the school's after-school track program.  Not only is it totally free, but it's super fun, excellent exercise, and it's also a great social experience for them running with their friends.   Of course, I also love that I only have to drive one way and since it's at the school, it's very close to home. Once again, I like the two-for-one aspect of it and I love that this is also a bonding experience for them. 

Ellie participates in our ward soccer league.  It's light-hearted, fun, extremely inexpensive ($10 per season vs $100+ for the community leagues) and it's at the same time, same place every Saturday morning.  The varying game schedules of most community sports has always been the biggest stressor in our weekend planning.  This will be Ellie's last year of being able to participate, but I figure that he will follow in Emma's footsteps and be a coach's assistant in the future (another valuable experience in an of itself).   Two for one again. 

We are far more flexible with our  high schoolers' participation in sports and allow them to choose whatever sport that interests them.  Spencer has  participated in football, winter track, and lacrosse.  Cami is participating in  cross country, track, and lacrosse.  Once again, since it's an after school sport it's only one way of driving and it's easier to find carpools.     

Of course, we're still busy, so what made all this  life-changing for us? 

In short, it is because we have reclaimed the dinner hour, we now spend far less of our evenings in the car,  AND  our Saturdays are manageable again.  All that and the kids are still having fun and are gaining fitness and social skills that will benefit them their whole lives.  Oh yeah and their mommy is a whole heck of a lot less stressed in the evenings....and that's got to count for at least double the points.  :) 

 We eat together, we talk together, we bond.   I believe with all my heart that although it's simple, a real family dinner eaten together is powerful and irreplaceable.   And guess what we do after dinner?  The kids jump on the trampoline together, or play a game, or we go on a walk to the local park.    More exercise, more time together, more bonding. 

I love it. 

And I also love what it's done to our Saturdays.  Our Saturdays are often still jam-packed, but they're a whole lot more flexible than they used to be and a lot more of our Saturdays are spent together as a family than they once were. 

Since I'm fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who find our stepping back from enrolling the kids in community sports to be almost heretical,  I just have to put it out there that I have no philosophical opposition to  kids participating in community sports.  My kids have participated in the past and will probably participate again in the future.   I do think, however, that our society places far too high a value on it and that when that participation is getting in the way of family peace and togetherness, that there are less disruptive ways to accomplish the same goals.

 It's been exactly what our family needed to help us focus on the things that matter most


"...we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize.” 
Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, … that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins.”  In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the “more excellent way.” " 

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

1 comment:

Rheanna said...

Fabulous post! I was JUST thinking about this very topic and worrying if I am the "bad" mom that doesn't let her kids do every community sport, dance, a musical instrument, etc., etc., etc. You gave me reassurance to keep going! Not only that...I also have 5 kids (ages 9-1) and if you can do it with 5, makes me feel like I can too! THANK YOU!