Saying No to Good Things
“She’s got some serious egg-beater skills,” said one instructor “—you should totally put her in water-polo.”
“She’s got a swimmer’s body” said another “she is meant for water sports—did you know the junior team won gold at regionals last year?”
“So when are practices?” I say, so amazed and excited that my daughter has been noticed for something she does well.
Don’t we all love it when our kids are called out for a quality or an ability that they excel in? It doesn't matter whether it’s for kindness or for a great athletic or academic talent, when someone else sees something that makes our kids special, we feel good.
“Where did this kid come from?” I often wonder to myself.
It seems like everything she does, she excels at. She’s the one that instructors love to have in their classes because she’s studious, she’s fun, she’s kind and she does well.
What’s a parent to do, when it seems like every little thing they do is magic?
It’s tempting to push our kids toward everything they succeed in because it makes everyone look good, and on one level, it makes for pretty happy kids—they always have something on the go.
Plus, it’s an important task of parenthood to impart discipline and follow-through and we want to give them opportunities to discover what they are passionate about. Being involved in clubs and groups are an excellent way to make these things happen.
But after weeks, perhaps even months of many late-night conversations between Josh and I, we decided against adding the sport to the list of things our daughter would do.
It’s hard to say no to something fun, something good. There were lots of good reasons to join, and Morgan was quick to point them out to us the few times we included her in our conversations on the subject. And even though she understands and is quite all right with the final decision, she would be quick to slap on a swimsuit and head to the pool in a heartbeat if we changed our minds. That’s tough as a parent. I want to be Santa Claus. I want to say yes to everything because having happy kids is a wonderful thing.
So why did we decide to say no? Why deny her when I’ve made such a point in trying to teach myself to say “yes” whenever it’s possible? We could have fit it into the schedule, and I still have moments of self doubt—but here’s why:
- In this case, “because she’s good at it” isn’t a good enough reason. She, like a lot of kids, is good at so many things. We could be busy from morning till night every day of the week growing skill in many areas of her life. We believe one of our jobs as her parents are to teach her discernment; the art of saying no to good things, so that she can keep better balance in all areas of her life.
- We have other wonderful, talented kids with schedules to consider. Morgan does have the benefit of being the oldest child, so the opportunities for her are greater at this stage in life, but we need to make sure that we can manage to keep the time spent driving from here to there and back again times five kids and two adults to a dull roar.
- When we were first married, Josh and I made a commitment to one another to not spend our lives living out of our van or being so busy with activities that we had no time to just “be” together. It definitely gets harder as the kids get older, but we really fight hard to have at least a few nights a week where we are all home together to hang-out, play games, or sometimes just collectively let our brains rot in front of the TV. If you call it “respite” it sounds far nobler, but you get the idea.
- We want to make sure that we don’t succumb to the allure of fame or recognition for us or for our kids. Having kids that excel feels great. It is very tempting, for me at least, to say Yes to things because it feels very good when someone notices how awesome one of our kids are. I’d love to take all the credit for their talent and personalities. But deep down I know better—they have me for their mother after all. I just have to make sure my life matches what I say I believe: we want them to develop skills and find their passions in life but it can’t come at the cost of growing relationships in our family.
- We've already said Yes to a bunch of other good things for our family this year, and while there would have technically been room on the calendar right now, it may have become an unholy nightmare come the spring. I've walked down that road before, and I’m not willing to do it again if I can help it. I've grown tired of looking at my calendar and saying “it’s only going to be crazy for a few months, we can handle it.” A few months are a long time in the life of a family. It’s not worth the extra stress and strain that it brings.
Busy times happen. I think being busy is a sign that you are alive, and well, and blessed. The hard part is making sure to be busy with the right things. I’m not even sure we made the right decision, because a lot of decisions are like that. I have just enough parental angst over the whole thing to assure myself that I care. Sometimes I wish things were a little more scripted for us on this parenting journey.
I’m going on the theory that we can always add something new next year if we just felt like something was missing for this one. I’d rather have that problem than to start praying for Jesus to come back because I don’t want to go to another practice.
I’d better wrap this up. I have some popcorn to pop and some high-quality “respite” to attend to with my family. I’m hoping you have time this year to do the same.