Yesterday morning was supposed to be London’s second soccer game. Instead, I found myself lounging around enjoying a much deserved Sabbath day of rest. The girls spent a good portion of the morning building things out of cardboard boxes, playing, and making up games. By the time we sat down at the dining room table for our mid-day brunch, our house was a mess but everyone knows the deal around here on Saturdays. We don’t clean up. We don’t hurry to another activity. We actually don’t really do anything besides rest, play games, hang out, read, nap, and enjoy one another’s company. It may be counter-cultural (I talked to one friend yesterday who mentioned being booked for the next month of weekend activities…yikes!), but it works for us.
One casualty of this intentional practice of weekly pausing to stop, rest, and recalibrate our lives as a family on Saturday’s has been extracurricular activities. At the beginning of 2020 (remember that?) I had grand plans for each of my girls. I wanted them to dive into the world of extracurriculars and demanded (or strongly insisted?) that they choose a sport. We enrolled everyone in swimming lessons (including myself and my wife). We signed the girls up for soccer. So multiple days a week, we were traveling to cooking lessons for Olivia, our aspiring chef, or swim lessons as a family, or gymnastics. Add on top of that schedule my weekly flights to Nashville or some other city and both parents working full time jobs…well, as you might imagine, our weekly commitments were becoming too much. (Soccer was the first to go… you’ll notice a theme here.)
Then came the pandemic, and it’s reprieve of a life of hustle and bustle. For the first time in forever, we weren’t expected to be everywhere, doing everything, because well, no one could. That’s when we decided to make a few changes. It began with noting what we liked about this new phase of life. During the spring we found ourselves riding bikes multiple times a week as a family, doing yoga or mindfulness together, eating meals daily, and by the fall, Saturday had become our family Sabbath. We found ourselves in less of a hurry, and as a result less harried in general for the week ahead.
Now granted for us, practicing a day of Sabbath is a spiritual practice but there are so many mental, emotional, and physical benefits that it’s also a popular secular practice as well. I believe that hurry is a form of violence on the soul as John Ortberg writes in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. If it’s true that we already have all the time we need, what matters most is how we spend that time, because it’s true that time is our most precious resource. We’d best be intentional in how we spend it.
As a result, we have a rule: no activities on Saturdays. At least not right now. I figure that we’ve got about 2 maybe 3 more years of this phase, before our oldest becomes a teenager (she turned 11 last week) and our next oldest follows in her footsteps. But for now, the fact that all of them enjoy one another’s company (and ours!) and we’re all content to spend time together making memories… I’ll take it.
Which is what makes my decision to sign London up for soccer this spring so baffling. It was impulsive for sure, I thought…why not try dipping our toe back in the water of activity driven life? She clearly hasn’t enjoyed it and it’s already wreaked havoc on our schedule. Once it became clear that she wasn’t interested in continuing (abundantly clear), I let her quit. (I mean really, multiple practices a week from 6:30-7:30pm for 5 year olds? Yikes.) I made the impulsive decision to enroll her in this activity, perhaps to live out my own fatherhood fantasy of one of my kids playing a sport that I enjoyed as a kid. But, I’m ok with her quitting, particularly if it protects this time we have together right now. Talk to me in about 3-5 years and I’ll likely have a different stance. I want them to eventually learn the lesson that when they commit to something, they stick it out. But this was my mistake, not hers.
One recent decision that I’m proud of making, last week we escaped to the beach for a quick family getaway. It was a classic impulse decision (though well planned and executed), but this time it aligned with our values of spending quality time together. And it turned out to be amazing. More of these being in the moment moments please! (as I type this, 3 of my daughters just knocked on my office door dressed in full Halloween costumes yelling…trick or treat…and now they’ve convinced my wife to dress up as well).
I know what the future looks like: becoming a chauffeur to 4 kids and their myriad of activities during their teenage years. Right now our girls are 11, 9, 5, and 2, why enter the rat race any earlier than I have to (and perhaps, why enter it at all?). I think I’ve still got some time to ward that off. I still look at my own mother and wonder in amazement how she did it as a single mom with my siblings and I. In the meantime I’ll cherish what we’ve got, and perhaps be better prepared for the next attempt.
Our time is our life, and our attention is the doorway to our hearts. John Ortberg