Over Thanksgiving weekend we all got up crazy early, not to engage in Black Friday shopping, but to drive my son many miles away to a Thanksgiving soccer tournament.
Such a practice was not far from our norm. It has become increasingly clear over the last few months that I am now a soccer mom. I drive my two sons to a field three times a week for practice and to games on Saturdays. And on weekends like this one, when my older son has a tournament, it’s an all-weekend commitment.
I don’t mind this, actually, because I see that they both love being outside and playing with their friends. At the same time, they’re getting exercise and learning about teamwork and dedication. It’s a pretty great pastime, as pastimes go.
I myself was never a soccer player, unless you count getting struck on the back of the head with the ball during middle school P.E. In fact, you could barely fill a teacup with what I know about soccer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the emotional ups and downs of any competitive sport. Your heart soars with joy when your son or one of his teammates scores a goal or wins a game, but there are also the times when your child accidentally scores an own goal and his team loses the championship. And your heart breaks right along with his.
Yep, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in all of it. In fact, I’ve noticed that more and more of my thoughts and concerns for them relate to soccer. Should my younger son try out for the club prep team next year? Is my older son’s team too competitive? Is he keeping up? Should we let either of them head the ball or is it too dangerous for their growing brains?
A lot of the conversations my husband and I have about the boys revolve around these issues too. If you made a handy little pie chart of all the topics we discuss, I have a feeling youth soccer would comprise an embarrassingly large piece of the pie.
When I take a step back and think about it this way, I’m a little horrified.
Soccer is not my top priority for my children’s lives, so why has it become such a big part of our lives together?
When I consider it, I realize that the large role soccer plays in our thoughts and conversations is directly related to the amount of time I spend with the boys on various soccer fields. All those afternoons and Saturdays. Even when my older son practices, I hang out with my younger son at the adjacent playground because it’s not quite enough time to go home. It all adds up to a lot of soccer hours.
On the other hand, although I help my older son with his homework, I do not attend school all day with him, nor do I shadow my younger son at his preschool. I don’t stand at the sidelines cheering while they take tests or work through a difficult interaction with a peer or a questionable call in foursquare. We attend church together, but before the sermon they head off to Sunday school and I sign them in and then return to the adult service. Even adding in our prayers, devotions and reading at home, these school and learning hours we spend together don’t begin to add up to the number of hours I spend on the soccer sidelines.
It’s interesting to think, however, how our interactions might be different if I did shadow them through all these activities like I do through their soccer practices and games. I imagine I’d be a lot more interested in their classroom dynamics and how each was progressing with their studies and their friendships and their learning about the Bible. I’d have more specific questions to ask and events to relive with them, asking how it felt or looked from their side.
I’m not planning to become a permanent tagalong for either child, by the way. Nor am I ready to homeschool. (Not yet, anyway!) But I think it’s essential to remind ourselves periodically of the prioritization of our time and our lives. It’s so easy to slide into an unhealthy pattern of if we don’t stop and take a look at how things are in our lives, compared with how we want them to be.
What do we say we put first, and how do our stated priorities compare with our actual schedules?
When I ask myself that question, it’s clear that our family life is looking a little bit lopsided these days.
I’m not going to stop attending their soccer games, but I want our time together to be more varied. I want to show them with my actions how important school and learning about God is to our whole family. I just signed up to teach Sunday school again, even though I really truly will miss the sermons those Sundays. I’m also going to seek out more volunteer opportunities at their schools.
It could be easy to overcorrect and go too far in this direction, I can see. I could quickly make myself (and them!) crazy trying to be actively involved in their every experience, in the exact right proportions. That’s not the answer, either.
Most important, I think, is to remember to take stock in this way, reminding myself of our family priorities—what is really important and what is not so important. And continuing to ask that question: What really comes first and how is that reflected in the way we spend our time?
I’d love to hear from you. How do you balance your priorities with your family’s schedule?