Summertime is here! School is out for the next few months, vacation time is near, with plans being made to travel, to spend time with friends and family, to do some home improvements or long overdue renovations.
Plans often include children signing up for summer camp, Little League baseball, soccer, horseback riding lessons, swimming lessons or other activities.
We look forward to summer because the days are longer and the weather is more enjoyable (especially after enduring a long, cold winter). More time is available to catch up on all the projects that have been left undone.
One of the areas often overlooked in our busy schedules is spending time with our children. Summer provides many opportunities for this!
As I was growing up in a family of four siblings, my parents worked hard to make time for us. They owned and operated a small garden center business, which was a time-consuming 24/7 operation. Somehow my parents managed to run a successful enterprise while rearing four children.
During summer vacations from school, we joined my father on his weekly trips to the flower and plant auction. This meant waking up at 4 a.m. and driving for over an hour and a half to arrive before the market opened so we would be ready to purchase goods for the business. After the auction was finished, Dad often treated us to breakfast at a diner—this was a special event! Looking back, these were some of my fondest memories of time spent with my father.
Did he have to take us along? Was he not busy enough with running a business, especially as it struggled through its beginning years? Would it not have been better for us to stay home? Though my father was a busy man, he found a way to make room for us in his schedule.
Now I am an adult with young children of my own. I am at a similar point in my life as my dad—finding ways to make time for my family.
Are you making time for yours? Or are other things getting in the way, crowding too much of your free time—careers, bills (making sure you can meet the mortgage, making car payments, etc.), watching television, browsing the Internet and playing video games?
Recent reports and statistics paint a bleak picture of today’s families. According to Playing for Keeps, a non-profit organization that promotes the importance of constructive play for children, family dinners have decreased by 33% over the past 20 years. Dinner time is extremely important for families. Second to these are family vacations, which have decreased by 28%, reducing even more time spent with our children.
Here are some items Playing for Keeps (playingforkeeps.org) mentions that are obstructing family time:
A recent study by Statistics Canada reveals some shocking trends. The average worker spends 45 minutes less each day with his family than he did two decades ago. Calculating that for an entire work year, the loss in family time is equal to almost five full weeks of work. One of the causes for this is spending more time at work than 20 years ago. We are working harder, but have less free time for the important things in life.
These statistics indicate that we are in an uphill battle! The job of a parent is much harder today. However, the benefits of spending more time with our children and making the most of that time is still worth far more than the effort!
There are more distractions than ever to keep our time occupied: cable and satellite TV—with more channels than necessary—on-demand movies, high-tech video game consoles, high-speed Internet—to waste away hours endlessly surfing the World Wide Web.
Yet parents have been given children as a gift from God, which He calls rewards and blessings: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psa. 127:3)—they are given to us as a stewardship. A steward is someone who manages property and other affairs for someone else.
In the “Parable of the Pounds” (Luke 19:11-17), Jesus taught that all God’s true servants will give an account of every aspect of their lives—including how well they have as parents wisely used their time to properly train their children.
With the summer ahead of us, let’s make good use of our time and make our families the exception to the trend.
Creativity is the key. There are countless ways to create time for the family. Since it is summer, the evenings are longer, so enjoy that extra sunlight. If you have a long commute from work, consider pushing back dinner time so you can enjoy the meal with the entire family. If the weather is pleasant, make it a point to eat outside. When the whole family is sitting down for dinner, turn off the TV and radio, or play soft, non-intrusive music. MP3 players and similar devices should not be brought to the table—cellphones should be turned off.
Now for the difficult part: breaking the ice, building and creating an environment for good conversation. Let each family member share his or her highlights of the day, and let the conversation develop from there. Perhaps discuss something heard on the news or read on the Internet. Talk about a lesson someone learned that day; begin with something you learned at work.
Use every possible opportunity to teach. If you are eating dinner outside, there are topics of conversation all around you. Trees, wind, sun, shadows, flowers, plants and any animal, even a squirrel or a bird, can provide a source of conversation.
When was the last time you took your son or daughter for a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood? Enjoy the surroundings. Talk with your children and encourage them to share their thoughts.
Vacations are an excellent way to slow down and enjoy time with the family. All too easily we can plan a getaway that has an agenda longer than what would easily fit into the time frame. Amusement parks, sightseeing, traveling by either car or plane can be some of the most exciting family trips. But remember to be balanced; leave time for a canoe trip on a calm lake, or a day of building sand castles at the beach, or the simple activity of shell hunting. You can enjoy the company of your children without the glitz of society.
If vacation time is not possible, what about the nearly endless summer weekends? They might not seem never-ending to us, but they do to our children! Again, take your family away from electronic devices and enjoy the natural world—it does not have to cost a fortune. Imagine an afternoon flying a kite at a park. Think of all the things you can teach your child: patience, agility, physics, etc. Or take a short ride into the country and show where the food on the table originates. In nearly every locale, there are parks and sites to explore if you look for them.
Even the simple act of reading books together can bond a parent and a child. Enjoy reading an adventure and guessing what will occur next.
Once we focus our minds on the activities that can increase and make the most of our family time, we should never run out of possibilities.
That said, goals need to be set. For example, eat dinner together five times a week. Share two walks in the neighborhood a week. Every Sunday afternoon go on a family outing. Set goals and meet them!
Imagine being given one million dollars. What would you do with it in 18 or 20 years? Would you make sure the amount grew, so that at the end of those years you would have significantly increased its value? To be counted a good steward you would need to.
The value of each child—his or her ultimate potential—is far greater than many millions of dollars. God has placed your children into your care. As a parent, are you using your time to the best of your ability—making every minute count? If so, when they reach adulthood, your children will have benefited from your many hours of teaching and sharing your time with them. And you will have prepared them to lead successful lives!