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The One Question Every Parent Should Ask

The pressure is fierce. So many things are clamoring for our family's attention. Are you taking time to ask this one, very important, question when it comes to your family and your kids?

I ask myself this question every day.

Every. Day.

There was a time when I didn’t think it was important, or I quickly answered ‘yes’ and moved on about my day. But, when I found myself sitting on the couch 15 months ago, crying my eyes out, that’s when I realized I had forgotten to ask myself the question – and truthfully answer.

Is it worth it?

That ‘it’ can be any number of things. Is this sports practice schedule worth it? Are these late dinners every night worth it? Is my dwindling bank account worth it? Are the late hours at the office worth it? Is my yelling worth it? Is my sanity worth it? Is God worth it?

There’s a part of me – and it’s a big part – that wants to stand on the corner with a sign for every parent that reads: ENOUGH IS FREAKING ENOUGH.

Seriously, y’all. Stop with the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on select travel teams, cheerleading competitions, academic meets, college preparatory classes, vacations and time away from your family when you haven’t first asked yourself, and your kid, is this worth it? I mean, really, we have to start asking ourselves what this is all for and for whom we’re doing it. As parents, we desperately want our kids to succeed. Totally normal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting success and planning and striving for it.

But at what cost?

A failed marriage. Bankruptcy. Foreclosure. Medicated kids. Broken communication. Infidelity. Poor health.

When does it end? When do we start saying no and quit bowing to the pressure of society?

Every time I pull up my social media feeds, I see it. I see us all trying so damn hard to push our kids to excellence and then we promptly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it. But the fallout? It’s significant.

What’s our end game? Do we want happy, well-adjusted, kind, faithful, contributing members of society kind of kids, or are we just looking for the accolades? I know. That’s a hard question to swallow. It’s a hard conversation to have, both with your kids and your spouse. But it needs to be happening.

Let’s put it into perspective and find our balance.

Do your kids excel in athletics? Awesome. Help them find their groove, select a team that builds them up, both physically and mentally. Maybe it’s the select team, maybe it’s the neighborhood sports organization or maybe it’s your own backyard.

Perhaps your daughter is gifted academically. Hooray! Seek out meets and competitions where she can exercise her brain. They might take her to New York! or China!, or it might take her to the local school where she starts a tutoring program.

It could be that music is your child’s gig. Play it again, Sam. Find that music teacher who gets her students collegiate scholarships, or maybe your son just finds the nearest piano and plays in the church band.

After you do all that, you might even discover that your son or daughter’s interests have changed. Heck, maybe you’ve changed. It’s okay to switch gears and find a new passion. I’m giving you permission to change course and not feel guilty about it.

Bottom line? We’ve forgotten how to be satisfied. We keep searching for success, worrying that we’re missing out on THE THING when really, simply enjoying the activity, with the people we love IS the thing. The next time your child comes to you, with registration papers for an activity in hand, ask yourself if it’s worth it. If it is, go forth with tempered expectations and a prayerful heart. I have no doubt you’ll find joy. And if it’s not? Don’t be afraid to say no. Those no’s are hard to say and sometimes the tears will come. But in ten years, you’ll look back and say, it was worth it.

The life we’re living – with its joy and peace and contentment – is worth it.

13 Comments

  1. Lisa on February 5, 2016 at 6:12 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I don’t have my kids in numerous activities and that places us in a small minority. There’s no telling my kids to go play with neighbors’ children because they aren’t home. They are in another state playing soccer, or at a college counselor even during freshmen year, or learning violin at 3. I second guess our decisions all the time because our life style seems so out of the ordinary. How lovely to read this and reaffirm what we are doing.

  2. mary W on February 5, 2016 at 8:03 am

    This is good.

  3. Lynn A. on February 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Well said, Kathryn. In today’s society we are always “on” that we don’t know when or how to take the time and stop and just be.

  4. Alison R. on February 5, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Whatever happened to imagination and dream time for children, adults too for that matter?

    • Kathryn on February 5, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Amen.

  5. Claire in the UK on February 5, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I totally agree Kathryn. Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head with your wisdom and kind words. Generally my rule of thumb for activities has been – if it’s local – you can go.!

    • Kathryn on February 5, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      That is an awesome rule of thumb!

  6. Julie on February 7, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Kathryn, this is a wonderful post–and so many need to hear it–but it needed to come full circle: at the end of your life, your child’s life, can you face God and say, “It was worth it.” Having lost a child at age 8, my regrets were that I didn’t spend time in prayer with her, really teaching her about Jesus and His love for her. With my other seven, our priority has always been, “Heaven is worth your time at Mass, your time in prayer, your time loving others.” The extras are great, but not if they conflict or override the priorities. This is a hard lesson more for parents than for kids. Kids do as their parents do for the most part. God bless you.

    • Lisa on February 7, 2016 at 11:20 am

      What beautiful thoughts, Julie. I will remember your wise words.

    • Kathryn on February 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      What a beautiful, beautiful reflection, Julie. I’m so honored you took the time to share that wisdom with my readers (and with me!).

  7. Sandy on February 8, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Preach it! Good words

  8. Kathy on February 8, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Wonderful message! The circumstances of our life with children (living first on an island in Alaska, then in the very, as in extremely very, rural south) greatly limited the opportunities for outside activities, not to mention friends. Then homeschooling + Catholic equaled having to learn to focus on the community in our own home. Our four children grew up with their siblings as their best friends. They have each had wonderful, rich, select opportunities, primarily in music, over the years and have grown into the most wonderful people I could have hoped for. We have held them very close and endured a lot of criticism from both family and church members, but I can answer, without equivocation or hesitation–yes, absolutely, it was all worth it!

  9. Kristen on February 14, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Love this! Thank you so much for writing it down and sharing.

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