Observation, Inspiration & Confirmation… Independent Thought

One challenge my husband and his colleagues face in the business world is the new generations and their lack of independent thinking.  They know how to click and check boxes, but there seems to be a lack of effort to understand and problem solve.  Looking around I think that this can be said about much of society.  Every community you drive though has the same stores, the same restaurants.  (We like to use our Yelp app to find small, local eateries.)  Stepping off the beaten path definitely has its reward… especially when the beaten path society is on is, for the most part, heading to a destination to which I do not aspire.
Recently I wrote about how participating in family traditions makes us unique.  What about traditions which involve “not participating?”   Traditions evolve, and lately I have been considering the evolution of Not Doing.  I thought of a few things that we traditionally do not do – and I see that these evolved through the process of observing (ourselves and other), praying for inspiration and later receiving confirmation – that is, knowing that this was the path on which we preferred to be found.  These traditions may continue to change and evolve, but the underlying principle is that of making conscious choices about our life’s activities.
Some things we do not do:
Playing together.
We do not play soccer.  I am not a soccer mom.  Nothing against soccer, this is more about families being completely overscheduled.  A couple months ago I heard a young mom say that it was time for the next child to begin soccer, as though it was time for kindergarten.  I felt sad knowing that she would now have so many children in so many activities that it would spread the family thin.  The idea seemed to be that every other kid in the neighborhood was signing up – but I bet most of those young children would rather be climbing a tree or digging in the dirt or drawing with sidewalk chalk – or even better going to the park with their siblings and parents.  Organized sports for young children — I just don’t get it.  The evolution of our non-soccer tradition began simply and for two reasons… we couldn’t afford the fees involved and my husband was always out of town so that I had the care of all of those young children.  We did play little league baseball for several years with the older boys.  That was fun, hectic, and I realized that home life was greatly improved when we were involved in activities together.   A few years later Nathan was playing basketball and we were all (five younger siblings) there watching.  Another mom mentioned how each of her several children had a game at the same time and were spread about at different schools.   I felt strongly that this is not how I wanted to spend my weekends – particularly during soccer season when it is cold and rainy.  I liked hearing of families that allowed only one sport per year.  We have encouraged basketball for those who are interested – it is a fun sport to watch, they will actually play it when they are out of school, and it is indoors.  We have also encouraged activities that they can do with siblings such as dance classes (girls) or piano/music lessons.  Mostly, we have tried to think of positive activities that our family can do together – usually hiking.  Hiking isn’t always popular, but we our outdoors, we are together, and we know that they are making great memories.  Cross country, tennis and middle-school running are all winding down this week.  My kids are in high school/8th grade and these sports have been great experiences!  Good teamwork, developing physically and socially, we love going to watch them participate – this seems like an important part of their life at this stage!  However, I am sooo very excited to have more time at home together as we get into the holidays and before spring activities begin.  I have zero regrets at how we have chosen to spend our children’s precious childhood years.
Notes from Jackie
We do not play video games (at home).  I should say we do not own video games.  A few observations here – when the boys were young I had several moms tell me that they wished they had never purchased their child’s playstation (or whatever they were using then).  “Why don’t you get rid of it?” I would wonder.  They didn’t like how it took their child’s time and attention, how they never went outside to play anymore.  I also observed how children would be glued to their Gameboys.  I wondered how they were going to learn about the world around them when all they did was stare at that little screen.  When did they learn to interact… oh yeah – when they were playing soccer…  So, much to the disappointment of our children, we decided to Just Say No to videogames.  Only a couple of the children have really cared – and it has been confirmed to me that these are exactly the children who needed them absent in their lives.  We do own a Wii – with the stipulation that the games had to involve physical activity.  Sometimes the Wii “disappears” for months at a time – and we don’t miss it.  As the children have gotten older they are more likely to thank me than to ever see that their childhood was somehow lacking.  The confirmation I have felt regarding this decision is ongoing and I have no regrets!
We do not drink caffeine. This one started in my childhood.  After making deliveries at the local grocery stores, the Pepsi truck would then drive to my grandpa’s ranch to load up his shed with cases of soda.  I guess they really liked Pepsi.   Upon marrying my father (51 years ago today), my mother also grew accustomed to drinking the stuff – and the story goes that she could hardly wait at night for my dad to come home at night because he would bring her a Pepsi from work.  When she realized just how much she cared, she began to realize that she was becoming addicted and began to work on weaning herself.  I remember as a child we would have Pepsi or Dr. Pepper, but never after the age of 9 or 10.  For myself, I think that the taste is disgusting anyway.  In college I took some physiology classes that showed how caffeine intensifies and then takes the place of our own neurotransmitters – thus is highly addictive like nicotine.  Mark once ordered a Pepsi while we were dating – and, though I know I didn’t say anything, I somehow conveyed my disapproval (apparently I have a certain “look”).   Thus it goes – we don’t have caffeinated drinks in our family.  Over the years I also observed how a few of my children couldn’t handle the sugar when they drank any sort of soda – so we cut those way down and what do you know? – no regrets.
We love the outdoors!
We do not watch TV. What a shock Mark gave the internet provider in Texas when he was getting us all set up and we turned down the “amazing” offer of Direct TV for only an extra $10/month.  This tradition has definitely evolved over time.  We didn’t have a TV for the first couple years after we married but then someone gave us a small portable TV… this was at a time when I was completely out of commission with morning sickness and Mark was going through a long recovery after having a bone tumor removed.  We were careful about what we watched, mostly PBS shows for the kids… but eventually we made two important observations.  TV wastes too much time – this is super obvious.  The other was that the messages about family – the children are sassy, the fathers are made to look less-than-capable and the general attitude is far from ideal.  We have never had more than a couple channels… and for almost 14 years we have had no channels.  I have had friends adopt this same approach to TV – their families miss TV for a couple weeks and then can’t believe they ever had it as part of their lives.  On the other hand we have a home theatre and love to invite friends to watch movies.  Confirmation for this tradition comes each time we watch TV in a hotel – besides the very lame lineup of shows available… what about those commercials?  Ugh!  One more observation about TV – I hung onto it for awhile to watch the news… until I observed ….well, I am getting too opinionated, but let’s just say I have many other options for getting news if I want to learn what is going on.
I have a few other not-doing traditions, but this is getting too long.
Just like I don’t think that everyone needs to take old-fashioned photos every couple of years to be successful, there are happy families who watch TV and play soccer – Yet, as everyone seems to want to live the same type of life, doing all the same things…

I would just encourage all families to think for themselves, look into the future and choose activities which will strengthen their most important relationships, within the walls of their own home!

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