I grew up in the suburbs of the Midwest back in the eighties. My parents sent us to private, Catholic school, my brothers and I had part-time jobs by the time we had our driver’s license, and I felt blessed each time my mom let me drive her Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wood paneled station wagon around the neighborhood.
Our family was comfortable, though I was aware of others that had “more” than we did, I also knew compared to many we were lucky. My dad worked hard as a stock broker, my mom spent her days taking great care of our house and my brothers and I. The pace and rhythm of our home was calm, predictable, comfortable.
Lately there are many days I wish that for my own kids.
The pace of life has changed, the rhythm off, being calm is a conscious practice. Family life, my own included, can be exhausting.
Several things contribute to the race including the fact that most families are dual income or single parent households, our kid’s activities are time intensive and no longer thought of as extra-curricular, and the exorbitant cost of college forces parents to work under the guise kid’s academic outcomes are more important than the joy of learning, making homework and tutoring a priority in many families.
The busy begins early in family life as expectations of time and energy from both kids and the parents often infringe on dinner time and weekends. Of course, we want our kids be involved, make connections and to try different things, but the reality is if you’ve got a couple of kids in a few activities you can find yourself gone every weeknight without blinking an eye. Even our Sundays are now filled.
Adding to this, I’m sure we can all point to some ways technology has made our lives more convenient and connected yet has also created more stress and a feeling of being not good enough or isolated because we immediately see when we’re not included in events that long ago, we never would have known were taking place.
It’s in my nature to practice being a conscious observer of what’s going on in our own home, and a casual one of those around me. I wonder: With the pace we’re living right now, how are we doing better for the next generation and where are we failing?
My sixteen-year-old son recently literally fell into a second job (he was leaving First Watch after breakfast one morning wearing the same team athletic jacket he wears every.single.day. and he was approached by a local gym who asked if he, by chance, taught taekwondo…), Maddux also works and practices at a taekwondo studio in Grapevine so when this second (better paying) job in Flower Mound came along, adding miles and hours to his life, we were forced to consider also adding another car to the family. My son understands college is looming and while he enjoys his free time, the cost of his future is something he will be contributing to, so he knew to pursue the second job.
Logistically trying to get everyone where they need [or are supposed to] be wasn’t going to work without another vehicle.
So, the search began. How to keep this new-to-him transportation reasonably priced was a search of many websites, walking around used car lots, and ultimately a post by my husband on a local Facebook group asking if anyone was about to trade in their gently used car.
It was the convenient technological approach that garnered the newest member of our auto family. One post by Tom led us to find out (through two other people before we got to the source) that a family we knew was selling their old minivan, cheap.
Is my junior son excited about driving a minivan around Flower Mound? I imagine he would rather have something else, yes. I’d like that for him as well. But getting safely from point A to point B knowing he is responsible for the gas that gets him around is a wonderful lesson in responsibility, accountability and time management. And, in my mind, it’s a step up from a wood-paneled station wagon.
I believe it’s our job as parents to help our kids see the bigger picture, to understand the reality of life where hard work and perseverance can lead you to your dreams and that each family works together to create the pace of life, which means it’s also our responsibility to revisit our schedules from time to time to be sure we’re aware and in agreement with the pressures being placed on each family member.
I also believe dinner time together and weekend family time is important, somehow, we’ve forgotten this, or we’ve let our kid’s and our own outside world dictate the amount of time we can connect with them. It seems like we’re in a “all or nothing” situation, I hope we can figure out a way to temper the commitment level and bring ourselves the perspective we currently lack. After all, we aren’t going to get our kid’s childhood’s back…