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Keeping Up with the Jones's

Jen: As we approach the craziness of a new school year with our kiddos, I am struck once again by how tempting it is to compete with other parents in comparing kid activities. Even when they were in pre-school, I can remember having conversations about where my kids were developmentally and what their achievements were. I can remember how much angst I felt when I thought someone else’s child was achieving more than mine simply because I hadn’t signed them up for enough extra activities. I found myself doubting that we were doing enough to help our children reach their full potential.

The more I’ve lived through hectic seasons of crazy schedules of classes and practices and recitals and performances, the more I realize how much the craziness takes its toll on our lives as a family and especially in our marriage. Trying to make it so I have the best kid brag-rights may be satisfying in the moment, but it does not reflect our closeness as a family. It doesn’t say anything about the way our kids love just hanging out together playing video games, board games, or bouncing around on the trampoline for hours. My kids like each other not because of all the things they can do, but because of the time they spend together, all 5 of them, even with the 10-year age difference between the oldest and the youngest. These are the things that I am beginning to see as my brag-rights.

Nick: It’s no surprise that too much activity wears at our relationship as a couple and our relationship with our kids.  Our kids can become accomplished super-kids trying to make us proud and yet end up alienated in the long run.  We can keep ourselves so busy playing the part of super-mom and super-dad that we aren’t a very super couple at all.  One of the surest ways for us to lose connection is to realize the only time we really spent together today was in a car between one activity and the next.  Better to set limits and take some time to slow down, for example scheduling a low-effort date night at home.  Better to actually be in synch as a couple, especially making sure we get a little time alone to really connect each day.  Better to make sure we go to bed together at the end of the day instead of keeping ourselves busy in our own pursuits or “winding down” from a busy day.

When we reflect on how we try to keep up with the others around us, we realize none of our kids is liable to thank us for keeping them busy all the time.  What will matter to each child is that they grew up in a home that was safe, where family time mattered, and the relationship they saw in their parents was a loving example they could take into their adulthood.


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