Stop buying what society is selling. Stop believing the lie that RESPECT is something to be “earned”.Read more
STOP THE INSANITY!
It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down and fall schedules are getting ready to kick in. Is your house anything like ours when it comes to activities and athletics? My wife, Linda, and I typically find ourselves looking over the family's schedule for the week and both scratching our heads. How in the world did our schedule get so packed?
Now, let me be clear, I am not anti-athletics. In fact, athletics have been a huge part of most of my life. Whether it was participating, coaching, training, or supporting. I love athletics and all they have to offer. But, as parents, I think it's time to have a serious conversation about the priority we put on them. I believe we need to have more dialogue about what athletics and activities are costing our families verses what we get in return.
Before we go any farther, spend a moment to reflect on a few important questions:
1. What do you want for your child with their athletics? (short term, long term)
2. What is that going to cost you, your family, and your child? (time, money, relationships, faith, school, stress, sanity etc.)
3. How much does your child like the sport?
4. How good is your child relative to his peers? (locally, regionally, nationally)
It's best to answer these questions for yourself BEFORE your child gets involved in a sport or activity. Is your goal simply to aid your child’s development? Or is your child aiming for the pros?
Linda and I have set a few ground rules for our family to help us work through this predicament. We are not saying our way is the only way or even the right way. What we are saying is that it is important to put some thought and perspective into what your child’s athletics will cost your family verses what you'll be getting in return.
The ground rules we've set in our home are primarily for athletics and activities BEFORE high school. We understand that as an athlete comes into high school he or she may need to focus on one or two sports in order to develop the skills and conditioning necessary to be competitive. But as parents we've gotten this way out of balance for our younger kids.
Ground Rules for Athletics:
No more than two sport seasons per child per school year. This usually allows for at least one season of downtime for each child. This not only benefits the child with a less chaotic schedule, but also helps Linda and I keep our sanity especially when you have more than one child. This may have to change as the child progresses into high school and they are able to participate without the need for us to transport on a daily basis.
No teams that involve regular or mandatory overnight travel for tournaments and games. This rules out many of the “select” teams for our kids. The cost is just too high not just monetarily but also with time and our other kids. When our kids are traveling over the weekend, they are less likely to attend and be involved in church. We believe in the long run our child will benefit more from his or her’s relationship with Christ and a positive church family, than from any sport. What is valued is protected!
No playing the same sport for more than one season during the school year. Again, this mostly applies for children before they enter high school. Students playing the same sport at a young age comes at an incredibly high cost. Burn-out, injury, loss of interest, etc.. My involvement and study of children in athletics reveals time and time again, that playing the same sport for prolonged seasons does not place your child in a better place for long term success in that sport. In fact, it may lead them to quit the sport prematurely. Variety of activities, use of the body, coaches, teammates, and a variety of skills prove to be more valuable in the long run for our athletes.
If you start the season, you will finish the season. We encourage our kids to try a variety of sports that they show an interest in. We have found that some sports just didn’t end up like they thought they would. Our daughter could not stop talking about running Cross-Country. That sounded great to us! We signed her up, bought the shoes, and started practice! After about two weeks we began to see that her excitement for cross-country was quickly waning. Before you knew it, she said she hated running and wanted to quit. Not so fast girl! You started the team now you need to work on persevering to the end. Wow! This was the best value for a sport that we could have ever given to our girl! What she learned about commitment, positive attitude, hard-work, and working through a daily challenge was priceless! (With that being said, I still don’t think we'll see her on a cross-country team any time soon and that's okay.)
*Obviously, we would make an exception to this rule if we were worried about the care or safety of one of our children. If we believed our child was being hurt by a coach, coaching style, or significant injury, then we would have the discussion on what we believed was in the best interest of our child.
We believe it’s important to encourage our kids to participate, work hard, learn to win, learn to lose, learn to work within a team, and learn the importance of being coachable. We do not want to mislead our kids into thinking they are better than they really are by giving them inflated complements and accolades. No, we really don’t want them to have a trophy, unless they have truly earned a trophy.
We see great value in our kids playing athletics. But in the end, especially with our younger children, it's about keeping them in a healthy balance within the family. For us, we had to weigh their value over their cost to our family. In our family, God, family meals, school, homework, daily chores, and family commitments are valuable things in life we will fight hard to protect.
Over the past fourteen years, we’ve reached this milestone three other times with our older sons, but something is different about this time around. This time it’s our little girl turning thirteen-an official teenager I’m finding out the hard way; it’s a whole different story when it’s a girl. She’s been talking about this milestone for over a year and planning for her birthday party for over a month. Photo booth, nail/hair salon, games, twinkle lights, and snack bar were set up way in advance for the big day. She even cleaned the basement weeks ago in hopes that it would stay that way for her birthday sleepover. God knows her brothers never did any of that.
The world our daughter, Makenzie, is living in today is so different than the world I grew up in or even the ones her older brothers did just 10 years ago. In this digital age, our children are being bombarded with so many different voices and messages. It’s hard to distinguish truth from lies which is why my heart wants to keep her little forever. But I know that’s not possible or healthy. God wants our children to grow in mind, body, and spirit. God wants our children to grow in wisdom and faith. Which is why I feel compelled to share some timeless truths with our daughter as she reaches this important milestone in her life. Maybe you need to be reminded of these truths too.
Happy 13th Birthday, Makenzie! On this big day, I wanted to share some promises with you that are super special to me. Dad and I love you so much and pray for you daily, but there is someone who loves you more than we ever could. Your Heavenly Father is crazy about you and has some special promises for you. I hope you will hide them in your heart forever and cling to them when the enemy tries to trick you with his lies. Makenzie, these are God’s promises to YOU. As a matter of fact, He had you in mind when they were written...
I am crazy about you! I love you more than you could ever imagine. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by me. (Psalm 139:14)
I’m the one who knit you together in your mom’s belly, and I still know every hair on your head. I know exactly how many days I want you here on this earth. Don’t waste any of them. You are a daughter of the King of Kings. (Psalm 139) (Luke 12:7)(John 1:9-14)
I know things are tough at times, but always remember that I can make beautiful things even out of ashes. Be strong and courageous, my daughter. I promise to be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9) (Isaiah 61:1-3)
You don’t have to be afraid no matter how dark or scary things get. I am always with you. I will never leave you or abandon you. As a matter of fact, I put your mom and dad in your life to take special care of you. They prayed for you long before they knew your name, and I answered their prayers. (Deuteronomy 31:6) (1 Samuel 1:27)
Trust me Makenzie and commit all your plans and ideas to me. Love others the way I love you. When you love others, you love me. If you do it my way; I will keep you on the right path and blow your mind with blessings. (Proverbs 3:5-6) (Psalm 37: 4-5) (Ephesians 3:20-21) (Matthew 22:36-40) (Jeremiah 29:11)
I am a jealous God though and need to be number one in your life. I want to be the one you love more than anyone else in this world.There will be all kinds of guys who will try and steal you away from me. Save yourself for a man who will go through ME to get to YOU. (Revelation 2:4-5) (Exodus 20:5)
Makenzie, find your happiness in things that make ME happy. Don’t chase after things like money, guys or other fun looking “stuff”. None of that will make you truly happy. It will all leave you wanting something more. (Philippians 4:10-13) (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Keep your guard up and your armor on. Don’t let Satan worm his way in. He’s sneaky and wants you to reject me or even just doubt me. He will try and tell you all kinds of lies.
(2 Corinthians 11:14) (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Remember, with me, all things are possible. (Philippians 4:13)
You don’t have to worry or be afraid. I’ve got your back. (Isaiah 52:12) (Isaiah 41:10)
My Word is truth. Use it as your guide. Hide it in your heart. Speak boldly for me. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15-16) (1 Timothy 3:16) (Hebrews 4:12-13)
And most important never forget how much I love you! I sent my son to die for you. No one can ever take that away. (Romans 5:8) (Romans 8:37-39)
I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist so I’m not in the business of diagnosing others with mental illnesses. This is my own personal journey with anxiety and depression. My prayer is that something I’ve learned or experienced during the darkest period of my life can help someone else. My hope is to shine a light into what I experienced and bring comfort and help to you or someone you love.
Early in our marriage, I began having panic attacks. At the time, I had no idea what they were. A heart attack? Stress symptoms and hypertension? Some kind of brain tumor? I just knew something wasn’t right. I even landed in the emergency room on a couple of occasions. After daily struggles for over a year with no clear answers, my last panic attack left me talking with my doctor in a desperate tone of “I can’t live this way anymore”!
A year after my first panic attack, I finally began to get the help and counsel I needed. I became educated on anxiety and depression, mental illnesses, medications, support groups, and therapy. In my role as a school counselor, I had a significant amount of education to help others, but I wasn’t sure how to help myself.
Now, I was on a medically monitored path to mental health. I began to feel like my old self. I began to regain my energy and focus. I began running and exercising again. I started to hang out with family and friends again and stopped avoiding social situations. The most life-changing thing I did during this difficult season was surrender my life to Christ. I had heard that phrase "surrender my life" many times, but it now hit home for me personally. The fight against this illness was one that I was losing. The more I tried, the more I failed. It was not until I dropped to my knees and said, “Lord, I need you” that I experienced true freedom! The battle was no longer just mine. I now felt like I had the Navy SEALS dropping in to aid me in my battle.
The journey to strong mental health has been life long. I have actively treated and lived with anxiety and depression for over 27 years. Here are a few of my takeaways that I would like to share with others in the hopes that they may get help or be able to help someone else with a similar story.
LESSONS I LEARNED
Anxiety and depression are normal feelings and experiences of the human condition, but how do you know when your level of anxiety or depression is beyond the normal range? There are many screeners available that you can take online. While these screeners may not be medically supervised, they can begin to point you in the right direction. If you score in the “at risk” or “high” range, it probably just confirms what you already suspected. An “at risk” score may prompt you to visit your doctor or begin sharing your concerns with someone else. A close friend or spouse can be a great sounding board or listening ear, but they are obviously no substitute for a medical professional.
Anxiety and depression can be situation-based, hereditary, or a combination of the two. As I look back on my anxiety, I see that mine was a combination of the two. I can see a very clear path of situational anxiety dating back into my childhood. At the time, I didn’t understand what a normal level of anxiety was, so I just thought my feelings were normal. Extreme anxiety before sporting events, getting sick the first couple of days of school, nausea and diarrhea when the spotlight was on me, avoidance of social situations or being around lots of people, etc. Outside of these times, my life seemed very normal. For this reason, most people around me did not really see me struggling. Only close family knew how anxious I would get. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty good at keeping my anxiety at bay. I knew how to avoid the situations and conflicts that were most likely to cause me the greatest amount of trouble.
By the time I was in my late twenties, something changed. I could no longer predict the situations that would prompt my anxiety and now even some depression. I began to struggle with feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, dread, and avoidance. I had a loss of focus, energy, and even physical strength and body temperature. I was feeling cold even when everyone else was not. Now, it seemed, my anxiety was taking on a different level. I was experiencing anxious symptoms in times when I logically could not think of why I should be anxious. One of the things that became very noticeable to me was frequently waking up in the middle of the night in either a full sweat or even to the point of vomiting. I went to bed feeling okay, but something would trigger a full blown anxiety storm, while I was in the middle of sleep. Not a good way to wake up! Yes, many situations would still trigger my anxiety, but frequently I could not tell you what prompted my symptoms. In hindsight, this was a warning sign that I wished I would have had help understanding earlier than I did.
Anxiety and depression do not have to completely wreck your life and turn you into a social recluse. In the midst of my worst days, I began to think this was the way life was going to be from now on. That thinking created a negative feedback loop in the sense that my bad anxiety produced symptoms that then produced more anxiety, which then lead to more symptoms, and so on. The idea that this may never stop can be frightening and even paralyzing. Once I began to learn and even experience relief from these symptoms, hope began to grow back into my life. The strength to confront a phobia, the energy to participate in an activity that I once enjoyed, the sense of pleasure and laughing, and the desire to see familiar friends and family all reemerged. These are all very possible goals, and I encourage others to not lose sight of getting these things back into your life. Whether it’s therapy, faith, medicine, or some combination of the three, you do have options.
Do not deny your genetics. As I began to accept that I may have a mental illness. I started to examine my family history. It did not take long for me to realize that my mom’s side of the family was riddled with anxiety. My mom was challenged with it on a daily basis. My grandma was very anxious and her sister also was anxious to the point of seldom leaving her house. My uncle was in and out of jobs and simply could not handle the stress of daily work. Here is my point. Anxiety and depression that goes beyond “normal” is often hereditary. It is common to trace mental illness throughout a family tree. If you notice this, then please do not deny it. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and have a family history of it, then there is a good chance that you may have a biological rather than just a situational component to your condition.
My last take away is just a word of encouragement. Part of my upbringing included parents that always encouraged my siblings and I to take risk, go after your dreams, never be afraid of making mistakes, and be quick to learn from the mistakes you make. I want to encourage the same to all of you. You have a choice to make concerning how you will handle all of the stresses in your life. You can either beat yourself up and fall victim to the situation, or you can see it as an opportunity for learning and growth. You most likely will not find a quick fix, but you may find comfort in small victories. Allow those small victories to be celebrated and used as motivation to continue on to better mental health. Reach out to someone today for help. Do not throw in the towel! There is HOPE!
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 1 says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.”Read more
We need our fathers to be Strong Dads!Read more
It’s the closest thing I know to divorce-proofing your marriage.Read more
When you “overfeed your young”, you stifle their urge to soar on their own.Read more
God has been so faithful in the past. Why wouldn’t we trust Him again?Read more