As a suburban youth pastor in a context where nearly all of my students attend college, I witness every day the madness and fallout from the frenetic, overloaded schedules of these children. Parents feel helpless and trapped in this lifestyle, while kids are flat-out exhausted and overwhelmed. Three terms capture the tone of statements I hear from parents when they lament over the busyness of their family: robbery, obligation, and inadequacy.
Parents agonize over going weeks without one meal around the dinner table with all family members. They regret missing consecutive weeks of church while traveling to soccer tournaments. They languish as they want their child in a Bible study, but they cannot tell the football coach that small group comes before the pre-game meal or film study. Parents feel robbed of the vision they had of an intimate family that eats nightly meals around the table and went on walks to catch up on life. Instead, they're trapped in a circus of carpool.
The vocabulary of fear and obligation dominates expressions I hear from parents when they lament over their child's busyness. "Well, we have to do an ACT prep class, or else . . . we have to take a full load of AP classes or else . . . we have to play a sport to round out that college resume . . . Johnny has to be an Eagle Scout . . . we have to attend every event at the church." This attitude suggests they face certain condemnation if they deviate from the cultural norms. Fear looms over the possibility a child may not maximize every minute of every day in the name of resume optimization and ultimate human development.
Furthermore, parents reveal a fear of inadequacy as they guide their children. On one hand they feel as if they are failing to maintain an intimate family unit, because their family runs ragged. Conversely, they feel damned if they do not provide their child with every advantage to achieve success in high school and beyond. It is as if they live cursed: either deny your child the opportunity of future success or board a non-stop treadmill.Read the rest.