Priorities.... What are yours, what are your children's?

This is a timely blog entry. It's the beginning of a new school year, and we're all looking at how much we can put on our plate, and actually partake of it in a meaningful way.

I'm in a startling new position, as we're (for the first time ever) becoming a "SPORTS" family.

When the children were younger, we left the house about twice a week - co-op & classes one day, and then church stuff another. It was wonderful. Here and there, maybe monthly, we enjoyed field trips, and of course play dates at friends' houses. But I stayed away from sports after taking a look at the schedules. Twice or three times (or more!) per week I had to be somewhere. Every weekend was spoken for... NOOOOooooooo. I knew there was no way home life could feel the way I wanted it to, if I delved into a frantic pace like that. I liked having time to grocery shop and plan, make sure laundry was (typically) done on time, and very few frantic or chaotic mornings. I wanted a SLOW lifestyle. So that's what we had. And, MAN, we enjoyed it!

Then came this year. My warrior-hearted boy asked if he could play football. I explained my desire for us to have a slow lifestyle, nightly (mostly) dinners around the table with everyone present, long weekends with options open to complete projects, sleep in, or not.... I finished with, "Can you give me one good reason that joining football would be more important than all that?"

He took a breath. "Mom, I really want to work together to conquer something. With a team."

<<crickets>>

Welp. That's one GOOD reason. Guess I'll learn to be a football mom!

In that vein, I always need to check all the other priorities, because I understand physics. Two priorities can not possess the same time and space. Something new is happening. Something old will die.

Expecting to keep the old lifestyle would be silly and illogical. So. Here's an exercise we did today, to help with the transition, and to jumpstart some good discussions without fear of retribution or offending someone's particular activity.

Step One: Write down all your priorities (and any you think may affect your kiddos... Last year, "video games" and "TV time" would have made the list.  This year, I didn't even think of them, and no one mentioned them either.)

Step Two: Cut the categories into strips.

Step Three: Decide on a baseline for yourself - I used "sleep," and explained to each child separately, if you are willing to give up sleep for it to happen, put it above. If you are NOT willing to get up early or go to bed late for it, it goes below.

Step Four: Explain the goal to your child- to find out what's important to them. There is no wrong or right. Here's a shot of me talking to the ten year old about where she's sliding the steps around... she switched art class and sleep about five or six times. That was hard for her to decide! However, "Math" stayed decidedly on the bottom for almost every child, except my eldest who is considering accounting as a future career.

 Here are some lovely truths I discovered: My children all value youth group and church time higher than I expected.

THIS is from the Warrior-Hearted young man. Look how high "dinners together" is! Look how high "home time" is! WOW!

The next shot is from my youngest son, who JUST entered youth group this summer, and is going into 6th grade.

 Top of the heap is YOUTH GROUP! I explained the top three are events they feel they can't live without. And the bottom three can disappear without them caring... My youngest daughter had the farm animals at the number one spot, the tippy-top, whereas the warrior heart would have no remorse if our farm was really just "land." Who knew? When would he have been allowed to say that?

The last shot here is from my surprise eldest, a thoughtful book-loving young man (notice he moved sleep out as if it's an exclamation point):

He REALLY REALLY doesn't want to try art this year, though I require it yearly. He's sending me the message yet again. And he's NOT a warrior. But take away his speech and debate club, his chance to flex his intellectual muscles and hang out among articulate, thoughtful peers, he may die.

I also discovered that they all value the time I need to prepare for my Spanish classes, and the time to write curriculum. I knew they understood, but I really wasn't aware that they GET me. They know that I LOVE writing curriculum and THRIVE on teaching Spanish to others. WOW.

Give it a shot. Take a picture of your priorities first, and then give them the freedom to start with them in a mixed up mess and bring order to their world, in their way. You may find out you're valuing some events way too highly and you do NOT have to go! Enjoy the freedom and clarity.

Here's my list. I didn't let them see it. I still haven't shown them. But I will. My husband, my home, THEY are my priority. And therefore, those top three for each child WILL be met this year. And now I know how to do it. It's my prayer that this tool brings you and your family peace.


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