Editor's note: This article was originally published on Katy Blevins' blog, Chaos and Kiddos. It has been republished here with permission.
The world is all razzle-dazzle these days. The simple life has long since been replaced with gadgets, high-definition and real time, second-by-second coverage of every single moment, flying by at rapid speed. No rest for the weary. It's flashy, lightning fast and it's so hard to keep up.
As a parent, I've found the pressure to "perform" to be brutal. When E was younger, we of course, wanted to give her "the world." Of course that meant stimulating her on a variety of creative, educational, emotional and physical levels, right? On Mondays, she went to math tutoring so she could be the top of her class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she went to the new kid's gym that opened down the street for developmentally structured play. On Wednesdays, we did church dinner and youth group for social and spiritual growth. On Saturdays, here came the soccer games, group play and physical endurance. Sunday was family church day. Couple that with juggling the complex visitation schedule of a blended family, and she was always on the go. ALWAYS. She loved each of these activities individually, but when combined, was she really having fun? Or was she exhausted?
She started exhibiting major behavior issues. Catty and grouchy. Whiny and needy. Sometimes in-your-face defiant and sometimes a basket case of nerves. We couldn't put our finger on it and honestly, we were frustrated with her. We were running around like her private taxi service, trying to give her every opportunity that every child ever wants and wasn't she even the least bit grateful? What were we missing? What did she want from us? Didn't she have it all?
Then we skipped her gym class one night by random circumstance. And we happened to not make it to youth group the next night. I thought she'd be frustrated to miss out on these activities that I assumed she was enjoying. Surprisingly enough, she actually seemed relieved. So on a whim, I skipped everything for just over a week. The result was astonishing. E started laughing again, relaxed and seemed to almost crave just going home and being with the family. She looked hopeful. When she asked the question "Are we just going home tonight?" when I picked her up from school with eyes happy and waiting "
It hit me. Less is more.
Our neighbor down the street has a daughter in traveling soccer, private tutoring, violin lessons, acting camps, production plays, basketball, youth group. The list goes on. And on. And on. I sometimes wonder when they ever eat, much less sleep. I admit to coping with demons in my head, telling me that I'm selling E short, when that family eye rolls us or makes comments about how their child is so much better prepared for the "real world." There have even been comments of E being "that child" that others shouldn't want their kids around because she's not an All-American All Star at the top of her academic class. Wouldn't they rather hang out with their child, who is so much better than E? As I see E's feelings being hurt, I wonder, am I making the right choice? Are they better parents than me?
And then I look at E and I see everything we've gone through together as a family. Blended family disaster and all. And I know we're doing a good job. This is what she needs. Us. Just us.
The point here is that what my child needs isn't what your child may need. And vice versa. That super busy family with loads of activities might be serving their child in the very best way that works for all of them and meets their unique needs perfectly. What they are doing isn't wrong (although I sure do wish they'd keep their judgments to themselves). What I am doing isn't wrong. The point is that we need to release the pressure to perform. I'm not a parent because I want to show the world that I am awesome and can live up to every standard and expectation of this crazy, fast-paced world. I'm a parent because I want to create and raise and love on a child with all of my heart and soul. And fundamentally that means my only purpose is to identify their needs and seek to meet them. Whatever they are. I sit in judgment of no one else and their methods, but more importantly, I'm working to not sit in judgment of myself. I don't need to compare or analyze or compete. For us, less is more. For E, less is more.
Her smile is the only vindication I need. The only Medal of Honor I want to wear.