Jul
13
Posted on 13-07-2010
Filed Under (Balance, Simplifying, Slowing Down) by admin

When did life at warp speed become the norm? “Bigger, better, faster, more, NOW!” life seems to scream at me on a daily basis.

I noticed the pressure to hurry creeping into my life even when my kids were toddlers:

     “Quick, sign your kids up for preschool before the spots are all filled.”

     “Hurry, you’ve got to get the boys in Little League when they’re young or their skills will lag behind the other players by the time they’re eight.”

     “What do you mean you haven’t registered your kids for Summer Camp yet? It’s already February!” 

It seduces you, this pressure to keep pace with the world, to give kids a jumpstart on the road to success. And, for a while, it sucked us in like a vacuum hose caught on a curtain. We just couldn’t shake loose the activities that, unwittingly, had piled up on our family’s plate. How did we reach this point of too much? More importantly, how did we escape?

Our escape route started with a pause. We temporarily put the brakes on our hectic lifestyle, allowing us time to reflect on what was working and what wasn’t. We noticed that, on our overscheduled days (while fun and productive), we all felt tired and irritable. After talking about which activities we truly valued, we pared down our commitments to a more palatable level, which automatically built in more downtime.

I’m aware that we’re practically counter-culture when we say, “No, thanks” to more “enrichment” opportunities that promise to fast-track our kids to superstardom. Instead, we get to relish all the free time that awaits us…time to dream, relax, create, explore and simply enjoy being together.

For tips and ideas about slowing down the pace of your life, click here

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder
www.SPARKparenting.com

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Jun
28

Rather than letting summer camps swallow up our kids’ summer, Kevin and I opted to (gasp!) not enroll Trevor or Parker in any camps this summer. We’ve decided to buck the trend of organized summer enrichment opportunities. We’ve discovered something much better – we’re giving our kids the gift of boredom.

As much as I like the availability of all these enrichment opportunities for my kids, I don’t want them bouncing from one activity to another all summer long. Instead, I want them to relish this stretch of unstructured time.

While we will do lots of fun things together as a family and with friends and relatives, I actually like when my kids get bored. Boredom is often the catalyst for inspiration, allowing creativity to flourish. When my kids get bored, I know they’re about to get creative, to explore, to think of a new idea, to play deeply, to reflect, to daydream, to tackle a new project (and, in reality, sometimes tackle each other).

What will happen when I let my kids get bored? Will Trevor create a graphic novel? Will Parker build a fantastic new Lego structure? Will Trevor learn to play a new song on his trumpet? Will Parker master a new defensive tactic for soccer? Will Parker and Trevor do something fun together – perhaps invent a new game or just take a walk around the neighborhood? Maybe, maybe not. But I know for sure that none of this will happen if they’re sitting in summer camp being “enriched.”

While I don’t enjoy hearing the “I’m bored!” chants that sometimes plague a long summer afternoon together, I’ve got two solutions for this one. Option #1: I tell my kids to check our “Boredom Busters” list to jumpstart their creativity. (To download a free copy of the tip sheet, click here.) Option #2: If that doesn’t pique their interest, I ask them what chore they want to do. Funny how they always go back to Option #1.

Here’s to a wonderfully boring summer in your home.

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder
www.SPARKparenting.com

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Jun
15
Posted on 15-06-2010
Filed Under (Balance, Slowing Down) by admin

Despite my best efforts, I still struggle to slow down the speed of my family’s life. It’s not quite at the “no wake zone,” but it’s (usually) not full-throttle, either.

On one hand, I strongly believe in the value of free time, of not living by a schedule. My favorite days are lazy Sundays, where we’ve got nothing planned and nowhere to go. We might lounge around reading the newspaper, watching football, baking cookies or playing board games.

On the other hand, I want my family to enjoy life’s buffet of activities. Right now, we’re into soccer, Cub Scouts, football, trumpet practice, religious education classes, book club, math club, volunteering, and coaching. We strive for balance, yet we struggle with which activities to say “no” to. Should we give sports a time-out and say good-bye to exercise and teamwork? Should we kick the Cub Scout habit and dismiss all the great values it reinforces? Should we give book club the boot and kiss the benefits of reading for pleasure goodbye? Should we toss the trumpet and downplay the importance of music in our lives? Should we be more selfish with our time and not volunteer at our kids’ schools or coach their sports teams?

The answer lies in setting priorities, doing things in moderation and striking the right balance. We spread out our commitments over the course of the year so we’re participating in enough activities that enrich us while still holding sacred enough free time to keep us sane. We usually limit the boys to one sport at a time. We rarely experience a jam-packed day that keeps us running from one activity to the next. Most days, Trevor and Parker have plenty of free time to ride their bikes, draw, kick a soccer ball or read a book. Most nights, we eat dinner together, followed by a family walk, card game, reading or simply chilling out on the couch together watching TV. We’re relaxed, happy and (usually) enjoying each other’s company without the pressure of a schedule dictating our pace and our moods.

It’s in these consistent, unhurried moments that we strengthen our family bond. How do you fortify your family connection?

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder
www.SPARKparenting.com

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Welcome to my first SPARK Parenting blog, which mirrors my journey towards a saner, intentional approach to parenting. SPARK means the Smart, Purposeful Approach to Raising Kids. It’s all about slowing down, finding balance, simplifying, being mindful, living out your values, focusing on your priorities, creating warm memories and enjoying family life more.

While my blog (and the whole SPARK Parenting website) focuses on intentional parenting, I am a realist. I strive for improvement, not  perfection.  This blog symbolizes the struggle between my head and my heart. I know what I should be doing, but, damn it, I don’t always live up to my own standards. I try really hard, but, like the commercial says, life comes at you fast. Sometimes I cannot believe some of the things that I say or do. Seriously, how can I write about “parenting with a purpose” when I regularly screw up myself? But then, I realize that is exactly why I can write about it. I’m just like every parent out there. I’m imperfect and so is my family. I understand the daily challenges, and sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I fall flat on my face. But no matter how many times I fall, I get back up, dust my pride off and keep on walking toward my vision of what I want for my family. And that hope for the future makes all the difference.

When I write about my family and our experiences, I’m writing from the trenches. Our success and failures might be splayed out before you like road kill. The emotions will sometimes be raw. The way my husband, Kevin, and I have ineffectively handled a situation will be downright embarrassing. But every time we blunder through another “learning opportunity,” we just get up and try again. And again. And again. And that persistence makes all the difference.

Parenting, I’ve long-ago discovered, is a lifelong learning process. Just when I’ve finally figured out how to take care of my firstborn (Trevor, now 13) and help him thrive, he is now a tantrum-throwing toddler. Just when I’ve mastered potty training and time-outs, he is now a school-age kid. Just when I’ve figured out the homework battles and chore charts, he’s a yearning-for-independence middle schooler. God only knows what’s in store for me at the high school level. And the kicker? Just about everything that worked with our first son doesn’t work with our second son (Parker, now 9), so I’m back on the parenting learning curve again, trying to figure it all out. And that teachable spirit makes all the difference.

I love swapping parenting stories with other moms and dads. It helps to know I’m not alone and not the only one who messes up. It also helps me to put all those daily irritants and missteps in perspective and have a good laugh. For example, a few weeks ago, it wasn’t funny when I sat down with my 9-year-old to watch the Black Eye Peas’ video “I Got a Feeling” (thinking what a great dance song) only to see Fergie dancing half-nude in her thong. Whoops! What was I thinking?  Bad Mommy Moment! But now I can laugh about my latest gaffe.  And that sense of humor makes all the difference.

I invite you to embrace SPARK Parenting, and I hope that makes all the difference in your family.

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder
www.SPARKparenting.com

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