The Runaway Train

One of the perks of being a therapist involves sitting with thoughtful, intentional parents and learning through observation.  I hear stories day in and day out of how parents wisely navigate the journey of parenting in the 21st century.  

We talk often of finding balance in the “more is better” era.   I’m grateful for films like Race to Nowhere that challenge us to slow down, and re-evaluate how we approach education, athletics, and extra-curricular activities.

One of the more memorable scenes in Race to Nowhere involves babies being shown flash cards while adults are speaking to them in Mandarin.  Following the scene, respected psychologist, Dr. Madeline Levine, is interviewed and wisely reminds that the developmental task of a child that age should be sucking their toes and thumbs.   It’s a glimpse of what an achievement culture we’ve become.   

It has spilled into so many aspects of how we structure the rhythm of life for kids - hours of homework per night, sports practices twice a day in the summer, kids who developmentally need nine hours of sleep getting six to seven hours instead, and on and on.  

A few months ago I met with a family who’d been informed practice for their son wouldn’t be cancelled on Thanksgiving Day.  The coach communicated he understood there might be some families who weren’t able to make practice that day, but he hoped parents would make their best attempt.   Practice would also take place the day after Thanksgiving and each day of the weekend.  

These wise parents respectfully pushed back and informed the coach that though they were supportive of their son participating, grateful for the coach’s investment and supportive of the opportunity, their son be with family on Thanksgiving Day, the day after and each day of Thanksgiving weekend.  

THANKSGIVING DAY!  Sadly it doesn’t surprise me.  If we’ve moved from practices a couple times of week, to every other day, to every day, and then practicing school sports in the summer, and travel teams that play all throughout the year, where did we have left to go but practice on Thanksgiving and Christmas?   I’m grateful there are parents out there willing to push back against institutions who’ve bought into the idea that more is better.

Is there an area of your child’s life where you feel as if you’re chasing a Runaway Train? Where would you like to see more balance? How does the investment of your time align with your values and beliefs as a family?