Does Your Kids’ Schedule Make Life Too Busy?

With the school year starting up again, I started thinking about something I’m very passionate about: some families are just too busy. A few years ago, before my blog really took off, I wrote a three part series on creating a kid’s schedule that contributes to sanity and family time, not detracts from it. Most of you haven’t seen it, and so I’m going to tweak it a bit and run it again today, tomorrow, and Thursday. It’s so important that we think about the big picture–and what we really want for our families.

Does Your Kid's Schedule Squeeze Your Family Time?Do you feel like your family is too busy?

My 12-year-old daughter has recently started intense figure skating lessons. She’s never taken lessons before, and she’s learned quite a bit on her own. But she decided it was finally time for lessons, so we signed her up for one night a week.

It was then that I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. When we showed up for lessons, there are about 25 other children there, with various coaches. One coach immediately grilled me, “why only one night a week”, in a rather judgmental tone. Turns out everyone else is there for at least two nights a week, if not more (and this costs a fortune, too!)

Now these lessons are two hours long. They interrupt the dinner hour (they’re 4:30-6:30). But I felt that it was okay to do once a week, since we’re together most other nights. It was important to Katie.

But she’s starting to question it. She said to me this week that nobody there actually smiles. They’re not practising so that they can have fun and learn a skill; they’re practising to be the best. In fact, many girls are only there because their mothers want them to be. Watching them this week I felt like standing up and yelling, “Take a chill pill, everyone! Nobody here is going to the Olympics. So just have fun!”. But I didn’t. I didn’t want the other mothers attacking me.

And the other mothers are strange, too. They seem nice enough, but everyone I’ve talked to has every child in an activity–or multiple activities. I talked to one mom who is out with the kids four nights a week. I gasped and said, “when do you eat dinner”? She laughed and said, “we don’t! We just grab it on the run, or eat in shifts.”

On the surface everybody looks like nice, middle class families, but I really feel when I’m entering that place that the whole world has gone mad. No child should be away from their family that much. Families need to be together. And stressing sports over family life gives a mistaken idea of what’s really important. I have seen so many nice kids grow up in a particular sport, working like crazy at it, and not having a life. Or, when they’re older, not being particularly attached to their families. Even though they were good kids, they didn’t spend that much time with their families. They did school, did the sport, and did their homework. And that was it.

How can you raise a child to be a Christian like that? You need time to just sit around and do nothing. And you need to eat together.

Before You Let Your Family Get Too Busy, Take the Long-Term View

So let’s take the long-term view and figure out what we’re really aiming for as a family. Let’s focus on one specific goal, and one very general one. First, the specific: we want our kids to develop fitness habits. After all, one of the reasons that we put our kids in sports lessons is so that they can stay fit! We live in a very sedentary society, and we need to encourage all the exercise we can, right?

Do Kids Need Extra Curricular Sports to Stay Fit as Adults?

I’m not so sure. I took ballet as a child. Two nights a week when I was 13 and 14, one night a week from 6-13. I actually was quite good. And you know what? I can’t do any of it now. I took adult ballet lessons when I was 30 for fun, and wrecked my knee because I tried to do the “turn-out” as much as I did at 14, and found my body no longer cooperated. Ballet isn’t the type of thing you can just keep doing. It doesn’t keep you fit. Sure it keeps you fit then, and it does help your posture (and it taught me to suck my stomach in, which I still do today), but you can’t keep it up. There’s no natural place “just to do ballet” in your life. So it doesn’t encourage long-term fitness.

What about sports? Hockey and soccer are almost the same. Some men are involved in leagues as adults, as are fewer women, but it’s not widely done as an adult. So you can’t rely on those things to keep you fit. You may love them, but if you’re only playing hockey as an adult once a week over the course of four months, it isn’t going to cut it.

Skating or gymnastics? Don’t even get me started.

There’s really only one sport that I can see that does have the potential to keep you fit, and that would be swimming. (And, of course, track and field, but few children do this as an extracurricular activity.) So you may have your child in some sport for 5-10 hours a week, and that sport will do diddly squat for them when they are adults. It isn’t going to encourage fitness. It’s simply going to keep them fit right now. There is some benefit to that, of course, and those kids who like being fit are more likely to adopt other fitness activities, but the sport itself won’t do much.

If you really want your children to be fit, they need to develop habits that they can continue easily as an adult. Biking. Walking. Playing soccer and frisbee and touch football with family. Working out at the Y together (if they have kids’ programs). Swimming together. Cross-country skiing. Jogging. As kids get older, these are all things you can do with them, which will keep you fit, too. They contribute to family time, they don’t take away from it. And they’re more likely to meet your goals of raising a child who is healthy than putting that child into hockey 10 hours a week. Even more importantly, if your child is in extracurricular activities multiple nights a week, you won’t have time to develop these activities as a family. So they won’t get done.

How Do Extra Curricular Sports Impact Kids’ Values?

Now let’s look at something more general. I believe that children who are most likely to adopt their parents’ value systems are those children who most identify with their parents and their family as the primary influence in their lives. They’re kids who enjoy their parents, enjoy their family, and want to remain close. Kids who primarily identify with peers do not tend to adopt their parents’ value systems, as Judith Harris’ book The Nurture Assumption showed.

How, then, do you get kids to identify with the family? You have fun. You hang out. You spend time together. You make the default in their lives “being with the family”. So many times kids are in so many activities that their primary relationships aren’t even with siblings anymore. And if you stop identifying with your siblings or your parents to such a great extent, it’s unlikely that “family” will be considered your first priority. Besides, most sports now require practices or games or tournaments on Sunday mornings, and so many of the Christian parents I know are missing more church than they’re actually attending. Fill up your kids’ schedule with sports rather than church, and what message is that giving kids? It’s saying, “your primary identity is in sports, and Christianity is something extra,” not the other way around. I think that’s dangerous.

Kids need to put first things first in their schedules. Besides, you can’t just have fun on a schedule. You need downtime for that. You need time for people to laugh. You need time for siblings to decide that spending time together is actually worth it. Often kids need to get bored before they will do something together, but if everything is hyper scheduled, they’re never bored, and they don’t turn to each other.

There’s nothing wrong with boredom. It’s the birthplace of many a great idea or great game. Kids get bored, so they need to find something to do. That’s when they reach out to little, bratty brothers or sisters. That’s when they make up games. That’s when they use their imagination.

Let’s stop making our kids live a hectic schedule that denies all of us family time. They may enjoy it at the time, but in the long run, what is the most important goal for your family?

Some families may be able to squeeze everything in, and more power to you! But I have seen families who have thought they were doing it well, only to find fifteen years later that their kids weren’t following God and weren’t overly involved with their families. It’s a big risk. It may be one you want to take, because your child is gifted or really wants to do something. Just realize it’s a risk. Count the cost first, so that you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to preserve your family life in the time you have left. But I hope most of you may choose just to hang out at home and maybe, occasionally, throw a football around together. I think, in the long run, that may be more valuable.

Other Posts in this Decluttering Series:
Declutter Now
Family Time, Opportunity Cost, and Kids

PSSSTTTT….Did you hear?

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Are Extracurricular Activities Helpful?

'Govs v Nobles g hockey 2011-0387' photo (c) 2011, Bill Brine - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This is a continuation to my Saturday post, which was a continuation to my Thursday post! So you may want to scroll down and read those first. But here’s the basic problem I’m looking at: do we as parents sign our children up for too many activities, and does that have a toll on our family time? I believe it does, and I laid it out on Saturday that the average family with school aged kids has, at maximum, 19 hours a week of potential quality time. That’s not much. And that’s before they do any lessons. Take skating for 8 hours a week and you’re down to 11. Not a pretty picture.

But let’s take this one step further. I believe that with parenting it is so important to keep the long-term goal in mind. We talked on Saturday about what those goals for our children should be. Let’s focus today on one specific one, and one very general one. First, the specific: we want our kids to develop fitness habits. After all, one of the reasons that we put our kids in sports lessons is so that they can stay fit! We live in a very sedentary society, and we need to encourage all the exercise we can, right?

I’m not so sure. I took ballet a ton as a child. Two nights a week when I was 13 and 14, one night a week from 6-13. I actually was quite good. And you know what? I can’t do any of it now. I took adult ballet lessons when I was 30 for fun, and wrecked my knee because I tried to do the “turn-out” as much as I did at 14, and found my body no longer cooperated. Ballet isn’t the type of thing you can just keep doing. It doesn’t keep you fit. Sure it keeps you fit then, and it does help your posture (and it taught me to suck my stomach in, which I still do today), but you can’t keep it up. There’s no natural place “just to do ballet” in your life. So it doesn’t encourage long-term fitness.

What about sports? Hockey and soccer are almost the same. Some men are involved in leagues as adults, as are fewer women, but it’s not widely done as an adult. So you can’t rely on those things to keep you fit. You may love them, but if you’re only playing hockey as an adult once a week over the course of four months, it isn’t going to cut it.

Skating or gymnastics? Don’t even get me started. Those aren’t going to keep you fit as an adult, either.

There’s really only one sport that I can see that does have the potential to keep you fit, and that would be swimming. (And, of course, track and field, but few children do this as an extracurricular activity.) So you may have your child in some sport for 5-10 hours a week, and that sport will do diddly squat for them when they are adults. It isn’t going to encourage fitness. It’s simply going to keep them fit right now. There is some benefit to that, of course, and those kids who like being fit are more likely to adopt other fitness activities, but the sport itself won’t do much.

If you really want your children to be fit, they need to develop habits that they can continue easily as an adult. And what are such habits? Biking. Walking. Playing soccer and frisbee and touch football with family. Working out at the Y together (if they have kids’ programs). Swimming together. Cross-country skiing. Jogging. As kids get older, these are all things you can do with them, which will keep you fit, too. They contribute to family time, they don’t take away from it. And they’re more likely to meet your goals of raising a child who is healthy than putting that child into hockey 10 hours a week. Even more importantly, if your child is in extracurricular activities multiple nights a week, you won’t have time to develop these activities as a family. So they won’t get done.

Now let’s look at something more general. I believe that children who are most likely to adopt their parents’ value systems are those children who most identify with their parents and their family as the primary influence in their lives. They’re kids who enjoy their parents, enjoy their family, and want to remain close. Kids who primarily identify with peers do not tend to adopt their parents’ value systems, as Judith Harris’ book The Nurther Assumption showed.

How, then, do you get kids to identify with the family? You have fun. You hang out. You spend time together. You make the default in their lives “being with the family”. So many times kids are in so many activities that their primary relationships aren’t even with siblings anymore. And if you stop identifying with your siblings or your parents to such a great extent, it’s unlikely that “family” will be considered your first priority.

You can’t just have fun on a schedule. You need downtime for that. You need time for people to laugh, and be themselves. You need time for siblings to decide that spending time together is actually worth it. Often kids need to get bored before they will do something together, but if everything is hyper scheduled, they’re never bored, and they don’t turn to each other.

There’s nothing wrong with boredom. It’s the birthplace of many a great idea or great game. Kids get bored, so they need to find something to do. That’s when they reach out to little, bratty brothers or sisters. That’s when they make up games. That’s when they use their imagination.

Let’s stop giving our kids deliberately to a schedule which denies them so much family time. They may enjoy it at the time, but in the long run, what is the most important goal for your family? Some families may be able to squeeze everything in, and more power to you! But I have seen families who have thought they were doing it well, only to find fifteen years later that their kids weren’t following God and weren’t overly involved with their families. It’s a big risk. It may be one you want to take, because your child is gifted or really wants to do something. Just realize it’s a risk. Count the cost first, so that you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to preserve your family life in the time you have left. But I hope most of you may choose just to hang out at home and maybe, occasionally, throw a football around together. I think, in the long run, that may be more valuable.

Time, Opportunity Cost, and Kids

'Time' photo (c) 2008, Alan Cleaver - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/A fundamental premise of Economics is that everything has an opportunity cost. If I buy a chocolate bar, I’m not buying a pop with that money. So the opportunity cost of the chocolate bar is whatever I could have bought–a can of pop, 20 jujubes, two stamps, whatever.

But while we’re used to opportunity cost when it comes to money, we don’t tend to think of it when it comes to time. And yet the time crunch can be just as acute as the budget crunch. As commenter Valleygirl said earlier this week (and I paraphrase), why do we yearn so much for those bygone years of sitting on the porch, and then overschedule our lives so much that we have no time for it?

When you schedule your own lives, or your kids’ lives, with many activities, you’re simultaneously denying them whatever else they could have done with that time. There is an opportunity cost.

So much for Economics. Now let’s turn to Math. Let’s look at how much disposable time the average mom with school-aged kids has in the course of a week. We’ll be nice and even assume that she doesn’t have an outside job, to give her as much time as possible.

Weekday mornings, before school, are a write off. You rush around and get the kids on the bus or out the door. Not really quality time. Then they’re at school, usually home around 4:00. So let’s begin our day at 4. Most kids are in bed by 9, so that leaves 5 hours per weekday.

On the weekends, let’s give you 12 hours a day, with 12 for sleeping. Over the course of the week, that gives you 49 hours. For comparison’s sake, the kids spend about 40 hours in school and with school peers. So it’s almost even.

Now let’s start being realistic:

Time spent making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning up, mopping the floor, and other housework that can’t wait: 1 hour a day (and I’m being nice. It’s probably more). Down to 42 hours.

Time spent doing homework with your child: 1 hour a day (this can include anything that goes into organizing them for school). Down to 35 hours.

Time spent on meetings or with other adults. Chances are you have at least one during the week: a committee meeting, a small-group meeting, an evening out with the girls, dinner out with your husband, whatever: 3 hours a week. Down to 32 hours.

Time your child spends in front of some sort of screen. The average child spends 3.5 hours a day in front of either a video game, computer, or television. But let’s be nice. Let’s say it’s only 1.5 hours a day. Down to 22 hours.

Time your child spends bathing, getting dressed, cleaning their room, or looking after him or herself. 1/2 hour a day, or 3 hours a week. Down to 19 hours.

So in a family with no play dates, no working mother, very little technology addiction, and no lessons only gets 19 hours a week of quality time when people aren’t doing housework, aren’t in a meeting, aren’t taking a shower, and aren’t making dinner. That’s 19 hours when you can potentially hang out with your child, take a walk, play a game, do a hobby in the same room, talk, or spend time together. I would guess that for many families it’s less than that.

Note, too, that schools get 40 hours. Schools have 40 hours, you have 19. How are you going to spend those 19? Some of them are going to be spent eating dinner as a family. Some will be spent in church (I counted that as quality family time, though chances are for most of that your children won’t be with you). You don’t have a lot of time to work with.

And in those 19 hours you have to teach them to do chores, to become independent, to love God, to be responsible, to not give in to peer pressure, to handle money well, to be nice to their friends, and to get along with their siblings. That’s a heavy task.

So let’s look at it from another point of view. What is it that you want your child to be like as an adult? What are the most important things for you to pass on? If I were to rank them, I would say this:

1. Love Jesus
2. Be able to form close personal relationships (including, I hope, marriage and motherhood)
3. Be independent, able to get a job when they need one and able to care for their own homes.
4. Be responsible with money and personal possessions
5. Be generous.
6. Adopt healthy attitudes and behaviours (including fitness).

Perhaps some are out of order. Obviously I would like them to reach all of those goals. But I would rather have a child who is 300 lbs. and who loves Jesus than one who is fit but can’t hold a job and doesn’t know God. So fitness, while it’s important, is lower on the list.

Therefore, if those are my priorities, in that order, how am I working towards them? They’re not automatically going to develop those traits. They need to be taught, nurtured, and mentored in them. They need to be shown, as they hit the teen years, that the culture which preaches against almost all of these things is wrong and not something you want to emulate.

And if your children are in school, you are fighting against a system that for 40 hours a week teaches that God is irrelevant to their lives. It teaches things that are not conducive to forming healthy marriages. It teaches unhealthy attitudes. It does very little to teach responsibility. So not only do you only have 19 hours to teach these things; you need to dedicate some of those hours to explicitly working against what the school is already teaching.

That’s why I’m adamant about family time. It is more important than sports lessons. It is more important than music lessons. You can never get that time back. And the more time your child spends away from your family, the more time he or she spends immersed in a culture which, in many ways, is antithetical to what you believe, especially if you are Christian. Sports may teach discipline, for instance, but they teach it absent from God. They teach it as its own reward, rather than being a spiritual discipline in and of itself. You can become too focused on performance and worth in that arena, rather than on worth as a human being.

On Monday I’m going to add one more thought regarding sports lessons, and one more regarding siblings, but this post is getting long enough as it is. So what do you think? Please, let’s discuss this! Am I off base? Do I have my calculations wrong? Have I left something important out? Let me know!

Why Do Some People Deliberately Have No Life?

'SAM_0783a_0801' photo (c) 2010, Peter Vanderheyden - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

My 12-year-old daughter has recently started intense figure skating lessons. She’s never taken lessons before, but she’s entered at quite a high level because she’s been practising on her own for quite a while and is actually quite good. But she decided it was finally time for lessons, so we signed her up for one night a week.

It was then that I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. When we show up for lessons, there are about 25 other children there, with various coaches. The first thing said to me was, “why only one night a week”, in a rather judgmental tone. Turns out everyone else is there for at least two nights a week, if not more.

Now these lessons are two hours long. They interrupt the dinner hour. But I felt that it was okay to do once a week, since we’re together most other nights. It was important to Katie.

But she’s starting to question it. She said to me this week that nobody there actually smiles. They take it SO seriously. They’re not practising so that they can have fun and learn a skill; they’re practising to be the best. Watching them this week I felt like standing up and yelling, “Take a chill pill, everyone! Nobody here is going to the Olympics. So just have fun!”. But I didn’t. I didn’t want the other mothers attacking me.

And the other mothers are strange, too. They seem nice enough, but get this: everyone I’ve talked to has multiple children in stuff like this. I talked to one this week whose daughter is in this particular sport two nights a week, but her other daughter is, too, but she’s more advanced. So for four nights a week they do this. I gasped and said, “when do you eat dinner”? She laughed and said, “we don’t! We just grab it on the run, or eat in shifts.

What kind of a life is that? Everyone there is judging me and my daughter because she hasn’t been in lessons before (we never really had the time, and Katie didn’t particularly want to do it). Everybody else has been doing it since they were 2. They’re much better, and they snicker at Katie, even though Katie is only doing it because she sincerely loves it and wants to learn to be better. But she’s starting not to love it so much anymore. The lessons thing is just too weird for her, so I don’t know how long we’ll keep it up.

It got me thinking, though, about how hard it is to learn to do something when you’re a little bit older. You have to put kids in stuff when they’re 3 or 4 and keep at it. But at 3, what kid knows what they want to do? I did have the girls in lessons at 3 and 4, just for fun, but it was all in things they decided not to pursue. The thing Katie actually likes we never had her in.

I was in ballet from a very young age, and by 14 I was quite good. I was on pointe, and pirouetting, and all that sort of fun stuff. But I remember a 15-year-old who wanted to start lessons. She was a lovely girl, and just wanted to learn for fun. She didn’t fit in anywhere. She ended up going with an adult class, which was really slow and probably too easy for her.

Who knows what they want to do when they’re 3? I don’t think any kid does. I think it’s the parents that push them, and tell them this is what they’re going to do. Some kids, of course, do love it. I have a cousin who was in competitive gymnastics for years and did love it. But she never went to the provincials, let alone the nationals or the Olympics, even though she was good. It’s hard to get to that level, even if you practice all the time.

And besides that, it’s horrendously expensive. We’re shelling out I don’t know how much money for this one lesson a week. I could calculate if I wanted to, but suffice it to say it’s a lot. We’re always coming home with fundraising flyers. How do people put their kids in for four days a week when it’s that expensive? And a lot of these parents live half an hour to 45 minutes away, too.

On the surface everybody looks like nice, middle class families, but I really feel when I’m entering that place that the whole world has gone mad. No child should be away from their family that much. Families need to be together. And stressing sports over family life gives a mistaken idea of what’s really important. I have seen so many nice kids grow up in a particular sport, working like crazy at it, and not having a life. Or, when they’re older, not being particularly attached to their families. Even though they were good kids, they didn’t spend that much time with their families. They did school, did the sport, and did their homework. And that was it.

How can you raise a godly child like that? How can you influence a child for good like that? You need time to just sit around and do nothing. And you need to eat together.

This is a crazy world we live in, and I really don’t want to be a part of this mess. I don’t know how long Katie’s going to keep going, but one thing I’m proud of is that she sees how dysfunctional the whole situation was. I didn’t even need to tell her. That’s my girl. And I’ll take her, even though she may not be as skilled, over someone who has been practising their entire life any day of the week.

UPDATE:

ValleyGirl published this comment in the comments thread, but I just have to put it here, too. So don’t just comment on what I wrote; comment on what she wrote as well. And let’s get a discussion going on how we can change the trend! Here she is:

So why is it, if there are so many of us mothers who feel this way, that whenever we get into these situations, we still feel alone ~ like we’re the only ones who don’t want to constantly be shuttling our kids from one lesson or practise to another? Why are so many parents, Christians included, buying into this idea that our kids need to be so busy? We all look back on the simpler times of bygone eras and wish for the feeling it gives us and yet here we are, figuring that we must keep our kids busy rather than encouraging them to use their imaginations and invite their friends over.

I am trying to rebel against this trend, but it’s hard. It’s hard to hear my girls feeling left out because they’re the only ones in their class who aren’t in skating lessons or dance classes. It’s hard to tell them we’re not renting the school gym and inviting the whole grade to a birthday party that’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars just because some other people do it that way.

One thing I think is a problem is our society’s “one man really is an island” philosophy. We don’t live relational lives anymore. We don’t know our neighbours and all the people on our street and we certainly don’t show hospitality to them. I know I’m guilty of this.

But maybe, if I was a little more willing to open my home to my girls’ friends and their parents, and if hospitality would become fashionable again with families desiring to spend time together and actually get to know each other, our children could still become well-rounded, well-behaved adult citizens without the necessity of hours and hours of childhood lost to lessons. (emphasis mine)

Taking Time Together This Summer

'Qiqi Lourdie Skating Lessons December 11, 20108' photo (c) 2010, Steven Depolo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I have a daughter who is very talented at figure skating. She pretty much taught herself, watching YouTube videos of famous skaters and then practising during our homeschool skate times.

We’ve been trying to put her in lessons, but the clubs near us are always full. I’m going to make the effort next year, though, because she is very committed to it.

When she was younger she had the opportunity to do competitive gymnastics. She’s always been really flexible; she often sits in the splits while she reads.

And we said no anyway. My cousin was in competitive, and she had a great time, but it’s not that she ever got to the Olympics or anything. And so she spent 15 hours a week doing a hobby that made her parents rush her around everywhere. I’m not saying my aunt and uncle were wrong; I don’t think they were. It’s just that for our family I didn’t want that. And maybe I could have handled the lessons during the week, but the kicker for me was the summer. They expected you to be there for 75% of the lesson times anyway, and we like to go camping and get away in the summer. I just couldn’t give that up.

I think children should have the chance to do well at sports, and pursue hobbies and dreams. But too often today these things take on a seriousness which I don’t think they warrant.

I was browsing some blogs lately, and I came across one woman at the United States of Motherhood who was bemoaning her child’s competitive swimming. He had actually made it into the top 38 in the nation, and so he was on his way. But listen to their schedule:

He loves swimming. His friends and social circle are there. It’s his thing. But he used to love to read? He used to get great grades? Where did that boy go?
….
Was I wrong? Am I wrong to let swimming take over our life?

Swimming seven days a week. Some days we leave for swimming at 3:30 and get home at 9 PM.

Dinner is eaten on the run most nights.

Homework is done in the car, in the stands of the pool, or at the nearby library.

She ended up threatening to take away swimming this summer because of his grades, which is a worry. But I think there’s a bigger worry. Here’s my take, and what I would say to her:

When your son is older, what will ultimately matter is not swimming lessons or swim team, as beneficial as that may be. What will matter is that he has a strong relationship with you which grounded him in his identity, his faith, his integrity, and his character.

Swimming is fun, but it is not the main thing in life. The main thing is your character and what you will become. Swimming can play a role in teaching discipline, but what he really needs is to anchored in his family, and for that you need time to be a family–to eat dinner together, to play together, to walk together.

Seven days a week is just too much, even if he’s Olympic material. The Olympics are not worth sacrificing your family over.

So you need to find balance. The thing that is most correlated with academic, relational, and emotional success in life is eating dinner as a family. If you have no time, that’s a problem.

I look at some of these girls who have won Olympic medals in gymnastics or skating, and I still think it wasn’t worth it. So they’ve got a medal. They’ve wrecked their childhood. And it’s your relationship and stability with your family that you only get during those childhood years that helps them form the morals and values, and acquire the faith, they need later in life.

I know that sports teaches you morals, but it can’t replace a family just hanging out together.

So my advice to you this summer: don’t overschedule it. Now’s the time to quit a lot of outside involvement. Hang out together. Escape together. Talk together. Read together. Be together again without having to nag about homework, or piano practice, or getting to bed early. This is your chance just to have fun and rediscover family. Don’t waste it!