I feel like I’m in a rat race. A pointless one. One where no one emerges as a winner. And if someone so much as happens to get to the end of the race unscathed, it’s the exception not the rule.
Most of the rats at the end of the race are beat up. They’ve been trampled on. They’re weary. They are weak.
The rats in this proverbial race—they are our kids. Our most precious commodity. Our pride and joy. Our delight. Our future.
This past Fall I sent my kids off to school somewhat reluctantly. We had a wonderful Summer together as a family and we enjoyed a season of a slower-paced life. When September rolled around we began scurrying around.
“Hurry up, we’re going to be late.”
“Quick, grab your stuff, let’s go.”
“Faster, faster, faster. Focus… let’s get a move on.”
We re-entered the corridor at the same speed as everyone else. We fully engaged in the rat race. Again. Our little legs are spinning so quickly that we dare not stop—lest we get trampled on. It’s an hour long commute (we provide transportation for our kids to a public school across town so they can participate in a Dual Immersion Program). It’s 6.5 hours of my kids day. Their days are filled with stuff that helps my kids identify and keep pace with the other kids in the race. Plenty of what they learn is good and beneficial. But, some of what they learn, honestly, I could do without. It’s not that I’m against public school. But this whole year I just continue to question, “Is this what’s best for our family?”
Before Christmas our kids had a blast as they took part in our church’s Christmas program. They both had fairly significant parts and worked diligently at learning and practicing their lines. I’m not against my kids being in plays, but it took a lot of time. They rehearsed their lines individually, together with each other and as a group several times a week over a couple of months. It was a great activity and my kids LOVED it. But it was just one more thing on an already full plate.
We finally broke down and put our daughter into athletics. She’s now a proud member of our local YMCA’s swim team. And to help our son make it onto the swim team someday too, we have enrolled him in swim lessons as well. It’s more like a swim club than a swim team, which comes at a pace and price I prefer over typical swim team. It’s not that I have anything against sports. It’s just another thing. More time. More days. More racing around. More keeping up with the Joneses.
We signed our kids up for the Wednesday night kids program at church again this year. I’m not against kids programs at church and I happen to love the one that our church does. It’s just another night of the week. It’s just more “Get up and go.” Followed by some, “Hurry up and wait.”
We’re a foster family. When the need arises, we all pitch in and do our best to provide a safe, loving home for kids who don’t have anyone else to take care of them. It’s a good thing. It’s a really good thing. It’s just another persons schedule to juggle. More meetings. More appointments. More court hearings and caseworker visits and family visits and phone calls.
I feel like I’m so protective of my family's time. We’ve said “no” to plenty of good things. Scouts. Sports. Music. Dance. Camps. They are all things that could have some benefits for my kids. They could all be a positive experience for them. Yet, even with the amount of things we say no to, we’re still participating in the rat race.
Add to the mix the fact that my husband is a Lead Pastor, and you get a whole new set of craziness added in. First of all, Sunday is a work day. There is no weekend for our family. He has Fridays off, but the kids are in school. There’s Saturday. You know the day when all of the other side events, Birthday parties and get-togethers are. And there’s small group and weeknight meetings and retreats and men’s events and women’s events, emergencies, trainings, conferences, VBS, weeks of prayer, etc.
Then there’s me. In my “spare time” I sub for the school district. I’m a standardized patient at the local medical school. I create special order cakes. I am a foster mom. A taxi, a photographer, a hair dresser, chef, maid, laundress, friend, pastor’s wife, counselor, mediator, fellow rat-racer.
I’m so tired of this rat race. Something has to give.
I just want to be home long enough to bake a loaf of bread or batch of cookies with my kids. I want to enjoy more time with my kids, more time with my husband, more time as a family. I long for a simpler life. I want to nourish my family with healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals and preservatives. I want to train my kids up in things that matter. I am more concerned that they know how to budget than solve a quadratic equation. I am more concerned that they have hearts that know and love God and a desire to serve others than I am about them learning about Noah’s Ark for the 16th time. I am more concerned about their character than their achievements. I am more concerned about their health and their safety and their brains and their hearts than I am about them being able to identify with their peers by having the same experiences.
I want out of this race. My priorities for my kids are so much different than society’s. The government, the school, my neighbors, my friends, and yes, even the church have different priorities for my kids than I do.
So, what’s a mom to do?
Really, I don’t have an answer. What is a mom to do?
I see my children’s childhood slipping away so quickly. I recently looked through pictures of our kids from this past year. They’ve clearly grown so much in just that small amount of time. Not just in stature, but emotionally, academically and spiritually too. These years are so precious. They are so brief. I am afraid that I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to get these years back. These are good years. My kids are soaking up knowledge and information. They’re learning so much about the world around them, yet they’re innocent enough to not be jaded. They are silly. They're fun to be around. They love each other and their parents.
I fear that smooches and snuggles, Nerf Wars and Polly Pockets, family board games and bedtime stories will soon give-way to slammed doors, sassy attitudes, nights out with friends and late night study sessions.
I want my kids to grow up. I want them to become mature and independent adults who love God, love others and make positive contributions to society.
But, on the other hand, I don’t want them to grow up too quickly. They will spend most of their lives as grown ups. They have just a few short years here to just be kids. How can I help them make the most of it?
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that the rat race is not a race I want my family to be in. Unlike my kids, I have been grown up long enough to become a bit jaded despite my optimistic personality. I find myself at a stage where I’m questioning everything our society deems “good” and “normal”. I’m not so sure I want my kids to be “normal”. I’m not so sure I want my family to be “normal”. I’ve seen the end of the end of the rat race… and nobody wins.
So I ask again, dear wise friends, what on Earth is a mom to do?