With fall schedules now well underway, I sense the pressure of a “busy” lifestyle creeping in on our days and cramping our summer style. I’ve chatted with many friends who have hopped right into the overwhelming patterns of rushing out the door to yet another soccer practice or piano lesson. With a rainy September and a slew of weekly commitments, lazy summer days at the river have vanished all too quickly.
With two of our kids having birthdays during the first week of school, I somehow managed to pull off hosting two separate birthday parties, several special outings, and family dinners with grandparents, all while attempting to get into a school routine and having my new five-year-old start Kindergarten. And with the fall church schedule, of course my pastor husband had evening church meetings! Oh summer, where did you go?!
Thankfully the weeks following that most hectic birthday-back-to-school week have been much calmer. My husband and I have been very mindful of what we will fill our schedules with and we value the margins we have for spontaneous bike rides, inviting the new neighbour over or enjoying a slow river walk in our beautiful little town.
We decided to opt out of any kids sports commitments that would include driving out of town or travel on weekends. We have time for father-son mountain biking, weekend morning Lego time, and running over to the neighbours to play with their kittens.
While my nine-year-old would have loved to play on a hockey team, we have to make decisions that work for all of us, one that allows me to volunteer with women at risk on Tuesday nights and lets my husband join our community choir. With our kids still quite young, we’re choosing to do activities that our family can be included in. I volunteer at Kids Club and my husband coaches the weekly basketball camp, both within walking distance of our house.
Being intentional with how we spend our time is a discipline. Much like managing our money, we choose to spend it on what’s important, and, if we spend unwisely, we feel the stress that comes with poor decisions. When we make thoughtful choices based on our values, we can better live within our means and enjoy a healthier, happier life.
As a family, we value time to rest. We need time to be idle: to read, to play a board game, to jump on the trampoline. For some, too much idleness may not be healthy, and working at keeping schedules busier may be more the focus, but whatever the stage we’re in, being intentional about how we spend our time, and having some control over it, are important.
One of my friends has a weekend routine of long, relaxed chats over coffee with her husband on Saturday mornings; the kids can wait, the chores can wait and the weekend activities can wait. What matters to them on those mornings is slowly sipping coffee and catching up with each other. There are many Saturdays when volleyball tournaments and acting classes get in the way of their coffee time, but it’s amazing how often this quality time can be prioritized when it becomes a valued ritual.
We’re working hard at not letting this school year be governed by church calendars, extra-curricular activities and evening meetings. I want space in my calendar to say yes to last-minute play-dates, helping a friend in need or impromptu afternoon family bike rides. We may have lost our summer weather, but I won’t let fall cramp my summer style!
Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.
Read more Third Way Family columns:
Hope in the slow spreading of the kingdom
Passionate about front-yard living
The holy task of parenting
Hold them close
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