One Family's Attempt to Get Off the Train

Three kids lurk beneath this roof attending to homework, I assume. It is quiet, still. We are all here, at 4:30, at the end of our days, with nothing but more stillness in the next 4 hours. This is a carefully constructed and curated day. It took resolve and determination to craft this stillness. I am treasuring it.

Because three months ago, at this time of day, I was playing taxicab. Running a kid to one practice north of town and rushing back to pick up another from school and hoping the youngest was okay at home alone. I would have gotten three kids back beneath this roof, whipped up a fast meal, and said goodbye as my husband or I headed off to an evening meeting. The average afternoon of the average American parent.

people-train-public-transportation-hurry

Except we hated it. And yet, felt compelled to join the herd.

Compelled by the belief that our kids needed sports and clubs and activities to get into college, succeed in life, not tear their hair out in boredom. Measuring them against their peers.

And us, too. Compelled to say yes to every good opportunity, because maybe, maybe it would be the one that opened the door. The big door. The door to the elusive next step we had not even defined. So we said yes. Because they asked.

And we hated it.

We grieved the loss of summer nights when we strolled through our neighborhood or enjoyed a glass of wine by the fire pit. We noticed our inability to be spontaneous or say yes to the life-giving invitations. We craved space - space to rest, space for family, space for people, space for nothing. And we began to sense that we were spiraling.

We didn't want to live like this.

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Making changes that go against the norm are particularly scary. Sometimes, it requires stepping out of a culture which surrounds and influences you. Which is what we did when we pulled our 10th and 7th graders out of their public schools and put them into small, new charter schools. We went from all the stuff to just about nothing. Few choices mean fewer distractions. But more than that, it means little comparison. And we have all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

We asked the kids to take a break. Take a season off. A sabbatical from sports and all the stuff that prevent us from hiking on a Sunday afternoon, having some people over, or, imagine this, housework.

Then we made a rubric for decisions. A 32 point rubric through which my husband and I will pass all the requests. We're actually evaluating the financial gain, the family cost, the life-giving value, and more before we say yes just because they asked. And when one of us lacks the backbone to say no, the other will take over, as my husband did a few days ago in crafting a response from me.

Of course, we had to talk about the elusive door of opportunity first. We had to decide what the goals were, which is something families and businesses and ministry leaders should be doing regularly. Sadly, if you're on the train to crazy, it's hard to step back and do that as frequently as you should.

Friends, I feel like I just leapt from the train to crazy! And it is so freeing.

Do you need to join me? What are the things in your life that feel out of control?