One day, after an epic, indoor “snowball” fight with the family with some leftover office stress balls, my then 3-year-old picked up his bright red plastic baseball bat and asked me to pitch one to him. At first, he had trouble connecting. But when he did, the ball nearly took my head off. After that, every ball I pitched was a beautiful line drive.
He was hooked.
The first time he played on a team, he competed against kids two years older than him. He not only held his own, he became one of their most reliable hitters and closing pitcher. It was hard to watch him and not wonder if he could make a career out of it.
Then came the offer. “I’d like Ben to join our travel team,” his coach said.
As he explained the opportunity, I was filled with pride. In this home, we have a future Yankee, I thought.
He would need to practice at least three nights a week and have games on Sundays—some local, some would require travel. And I would need to sign him up for an off-season baseball camp to keep his skills up.
As my wife and I began to think through the opportunity, I couldn’t help but feel as though we were about to board a train we’d never be able to get off.
In this home … success is defined differently
Living on Long Island, we’d seen other families board the same train.
One friend had three daughters on similar tracks to success: one in dance, one in soccer, and one in lacrosse. Mom spent her time driving kids from one event to another, while Dad stayed late at work to pay for it all.
Home after home, the activities were different, but the story was the same. I didn’t want to deny my children any opportunity to succeed, but I started to wonder if I was missing the point of parenting. Or maybe we needed a different definition of success.
In Joshua 24, Joshua gathered all the leaders of Israel together and presented them with a challenge. “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (verse 15).
I’m not saying baseball is bad, nor is developing your child’s natural talent. But there is only so much time in the day, so much emotional energy to expend.
In this home, we prioritize what matters most
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Talk about God’s laws on the way, when you sit, and when you rise? That sounds simple, but our existing schedules were crazy enough. I couldn’t imagine how we’d have time to do this in any meaningful way, adding camp, a travel team, and Sunday games into the mix.
After talking it through, my wife and I decided to pass on the sports clinic and travel team. We also decided to set some boundaries around extracurricular activities:
- No participation in teams that held games on Sundays.
- Family dinner would be a priority.
- No more than one evening event per week.
It was difficult to say no to so many opportunities. With two highly talented kids, requests for new activities seemed to come in weekly. It felt like we were always depriving them of something.
Can you relate?
Maybe in your home sports isn’t an issue. Maybe for you the pressures are social or trying to achieve a certain status. Whatever the source, something is always trying to steal your time.
But we’ve found that sometimes you need to say no to the good to make room for the best.
Your kids may miss out on some experiences, but they’ll gain in others. We had time to cook dinner together, bake cookies, play video games, toss the ball in the backyard, and have epic “snowball” fights in the house with squishy balls.
Overall, our boundaries have given us many more opportunities to “talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
And our kids aren’t the only ones who’ve benefited. The slower pace has allowed my wife and I time to focus on each other as well. Our marriage is stronger because of it.
In this home … who (or what) do you serve?
The gods that Joshua was concerned about looked different than those we face today, but there are still many “gods” vying for our attention.
At one point, it looked like we would answer Joshua’s challenge and declare, “In this home, we serve baseball.” At others, the temptation has been to say, “In this home, we serve the business, our mortgage, our careers, and even video games.”
My kids are now in the early stages of building their own lives and families. They’ll soon be faced with similar temptations from different “gods.” I don’t know what specific choices they will make, but it is my prayer that when the time comes, they will stand up and say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In your home, who or what do you serve?
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Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Orlando, Florida, with their two children. You can learn more on their blog, YourEverAfter.org.