Why are we so busy? Maybe we’re paranoid about ruining our kids.
Recently, we’ve been talking about some of the core issues that cause us to be too busy. Last week we looked at how misplaced priorities can make you overwhelmed and crazy busy. Today we want to look at our cultural obsession with trying to not ruin our kids. Many of these thoughts and ideas are influenced by a great book that I read called Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.
One of the calmest, least stressed families I know have the most kids. In my mind, that seems contrary to logic. If you know me, then you know that my default is to be a helicopter parent, hovering around my kids at the playground in case they fall and break an arm. If you don’t see behaving like this, it is because I am employing all of my willpower to grit my teeth and make eye contact with you while I pretend to not be freaking out about what my kids might or might not be doing.
Hey, that was my true confession!
Let’s be honest, in a lot of ways, kids are safer than ever before, but we live in a world of increasing anxiety. Yes, I know that there are very scary and real risks out there in the world and something terrible could happen at any moment, but we still live in a time when the average life expectancy is high, medical advancements are constantly plowing ahead, and technology has allowed for incredible security. So, although very real dangers still exist, we live in a safer time than the vast majority of history and definitely the vast majority of the world.
Simultaneously, we are placing more energy than ever before - unheard of amounts of energy - into the development of our children. There was a time when sports practices were only a few days per week, kids didn’t pick up an instrument until fourth grade, and nobody thought of math or reading tutors unless the school suggested it. Today, however, we have technology so that our kids can be reading before they can walk, and we feel all sorts of social pressure to make sure that our kids are elite students, elite athletes, elite musicians, and any other area of expertise that we can think of.
Beyond this, there is another more sinister reality that many people have come to embrace. Despite all of the energy, after school activities, countless tutoring lessons, and third mortgages to pay for college, vast numbers of parents are claiming full responsibility for not doing enough when their kids fail.
Can I suggest that we suffer from child-obsessed parenting?
Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrong, “Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no wait their tummies...no wait their backs...no wait…), while listening to Baby Mozart, surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano since they are five years old and can’t leave their car seat until they are five foot six.”
I have traveled all over the world. I’ve drilled wells in rural Honduras where babies slept in hammocks tied shut with a stick. I’ve slept on remote islands in the middle of Southeast Asia where the houses were built on jagged rock and the bridge to the front door was a rotten wooden plank with a baby crawling on it. And I’ve been the panicky parent who didn’t know if I should wake up my baby because she was sleeping on her side when the doctor and the internet said that she should sleep on her back.
At the end of the day, it’s not that any of the opportunities and extra securities that we employ are bad or even unhealthy, but I do wonder what kind of return on investment they will provide. Secular research suggests that the most influential things in your children's lives will be your politics, religion, and the way you show them that you appreciate them.
In other words, the things that will shape your kids the most are your worldview and your visible love for them. Surprisingly, according to research, all the other stuff matters less than we think that it does.
The sad thing is this: if you are so busy doing everything else that the internet says that you are supposed to do, if you feel guilty that you don’t make your mayonnaise from scratch, if you aren’t giving your kids daily foot massages with essential oils, if they aren’t learning viola at the age of three, if you are crazy busy doing these things, then you probably won’t have the time or the emotional energy to shape your kids in the areas that they actually need to be shaped.
At the end of the day, the Bible says to teach your kids about God, discipline them, be thankful for them, and not to exasperate them. It doesn’t say anything about not allowing them to have a Happy Meal. Maybe we are overly busy because we are overcomplicating it.