I am trying really hard to get our life in line. You know,
how to do this whole I have 2 kiddos and I homeschool
life. I remembered this e-mail I recieved last year. I thought I would share it with you. It is very long and very worth it. I hope you like it.
Close the Zoo
The animals in the Hong Kong Zoo were growing noticeably fatigued, unhealthy, and more edgy and testy with each other as the zoo grew in human observers. So, according to the account in Newsweek, the zoo's directors decided to give the animals time off by closing the gates to the public one day a week. The animals showed some improvement, but still there was more fighting and sickness than what seemed normal. Again the directors met and decided to do what had never been done: Close the zoo two days every week. This time, results were dramatic. Health and playfulness were restored. The animals quit fighting. The directors were amazed.
There's a lesson there for parents. If your kids aren't acting like the maturing, lovable creatures they were meant to be . . . try closing the zoo. People everywhere ask me about America's kids in the 21st century and what differentiates this generation from that which came before them. There are many! But one stands out like the flash of a camera in a dark room. America's modern day family looks like a pendulum of a clock; on the broad stroke of the pendulum to the left you see bored kids . . . really, really bored kids, watching three or four hours of TV a day or playing video games until their fingers drop off.
On the other swing of the pendulum you see busy kids. Busy, busy kids. Up early for work out or college prep study sessions, off to a challenging high-demand day at school, followed by an athletic training session, band practice or school function, whisking through a fast food line, and hitting the books 'til 'late thirty' before dragging themselves into bed. The mini-van screams off to upteen practices of all kinds, clubs, support groups, school functions, in and out of season work-outs, high-demand coaches, tutors, a cramming session at McDonalds and flying home for studies and a few precious hours of much needed rest. Somewhere in the middle of that pendulum swing is my favorite word in home making . . . balance. BALANCE. CLOSE THE ZOO and find some balance! If the Hong Kong Zoo animals' performance improved, so much more our kids.
Jump on board with me and let's take a little road trip down the Avenue of Balance. (And let's drive 35 miles per hour!) "FAMILY" doesn't' happen in the drive-thru lane! In the eighteen years that will travel at twice the speed of light, that little fellow who's showing off his very capable lungs will be packing his bags for college. Eighteen important, precious, significant . . . . no, sacred . . . years to be in a family. Family happens at home! Family happens at the dinner table. Family happens at the bedside devotions. Family happens on an all-family camping trip. Family happens on a mom/daughter retreat. Family happens around a Monopoly board. Family happens holding hands in prayer. Family happens when "time out" is called and the game of chaos comes to screeching halt. Family happens when a home cooked meal is being served. Family happens when all family members sit together at church.
Want to CLOSE THE ZOO and experience family in 2007? First of all, set down some ground rules this year . . . some core values . . . some family absolutes. Grab the reigns of this runaway wagon of exhausted ponies and take charge of the schedule again. Let everyone know that we will all sit together in church, that we will all huddle just before bed three nights a week and read Psalm together and share prayer requests, that we will seek out and pursue a family mission trip to the inner-city or neighboring country in the next twelve months, that we will all get our calendars and go camping or skiing or sailing together, that we will eat supper together three to five nights a week, that we will take on a project for a less fortunate family, that we will pool our pocket change in our piggy bank and send an inner-city child to Kids Across America.
Family stuff! Remember, it is not how many fish you caught with your son. It's how much you laughed when your tent started leaking!
ACTIVITY: Menace or marvel? It's up to you. The single, biggest mistake Debbie Jo and I made as parents was letting a zealous coach take kamp away from our son. Every day all summer he had to be in the school weight room.
Looking back, we were conned and should have said no. Certain things are more important than year round sports. One of those things is family, and the other is a kamp that stresses, encourages and rebuilds family. I'm an ex-football coach and sports enthusiast, for sure. Few places in a child's life teach teamwork, sacrifice and mental and physical toughness and humility like sports. All my kids did sports and I believe there are lessons taught on the playing field that are super important! But the basketball floor or the band concert or the school play or the gymnastics arena do not measure up to the memories made on a family outing or four little tykes painting a "Welcome Home, Mommy" banner on a eight foot piece of butcher paper! In twenty years no one will count the number of trophies in a trophy case. But no one will ever forget the number of times we all huddled around the dinner table, or card table, or king-size bed, or the living room floor and created something fun . . . together! Before you sign up your child for a sport or a school activity, ask questions and count the cost of participation. Overlay your priorities as a family leader first and make sure there is a match. Plan your "times away" before you sign the dotted line.
I've spoken to the Oklahoma University football team twice in the last three years. I've never been part of a college sports organization as disciplined physically, mentally and spiritually as that team! I've also grown to admire Head Coach Bob Stoop's priorities. Amidst all the pressures to win national championships, all his coaches are encouraged to pack their kids' lunches and get their kids to school before coming to work. No father is welcome before 8:30 a.m. at the office. As long as their children don't hinder practice, they are all welcome in the arena where their dad coaches the Sooners. In Norman it is family first and winning second. No wonder the man finds success year after year after year! He CLOSES THE ZOO until the dads have done their first job first. THE OTHER ZOO:
As a man thinketh, so he is. - Proverbs 23:7"
A man is what he thinks about all day long. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
A man's life is what his thoughts make of it. - Marcus Aurelius
Protecting our kids' minds and engaging ourselves fully as our kids' "ear and eye filters" to slow down the media zoo that seeks to fill their mind with immoral garbage is definitely one of the most challenging and surely among the most important jobs we have as parents. The average eighteen year old has taken in over 80,000 illicit sex scenes (implied or viewed in various stages of display) from television alone in his/her growing up years, and studies show that 92% of those scenes are with extramarital partners. A quick scan of this week's TV Guide ends the mystery of why so many teens and pre-teen kids are falling into sexual temptation and activity. "A pair of daring incest plots has soap fans in a tizzy. "Jonathan woos his cousin Tammy and takes her virginity." "Whitney discovers that her long-time lover is really her brother." Are you kidding me? This is mainstream television! Mainstream rock, rap and hip-hop music is every bit as morally degrading. Why permit this assault on our kids' minds?
My Labrador retriever taught me an insightful truth about my responsibility as a dad once upon a time. If he had a dangerous chicken bone in his mouth, no act of Congress or California earthquake could make him give it up. But if I offered him a juicy piece of lean meat in the palm of my hand, then like any dog, he's drop that bone every time. Are you worried about the attraction some tantalizing but dangerous bones might hold to your kids? Then turn your home into a king's cut of prime rib to entice their taste buds. Make life at home a celebration for them - a homecoming party every evening after school, and a holiday every weekend.
"The best way to make kids good," Oscar Wilde said, "is to keep them happy."
Kids love to stay home when the home has parent leaders who make it the 'funnest place to be. A picture I saw on a giant billboard years ago on Interstate 40 continues to stay in my mind. A family of five was holding hands and walking, all smiling. Big colorful letters read, "Get your good times together." What else can a family do together? For starters, try a few of these: Homemade carnivals in the living room, with prizes for the winner in each event: throwing darts at balloons, pitching pennies, tossing a hat on a broomstick, bobbing for apples. Homemade miniature golf. Balloon volleyball over a king-size bed. Pillow fights. Decorate Christmas cookies together. Table games. Puzzles. Checkers. Charades. Coloring contests. Making popcorn balls. Making caramel apples. Leather crafts. Wood crafts. Family baseball, football, volleyball (we always handicap the better athletes to keep the competition close), BB gun contests, bow-and-arrows in the front yard popping balloons. Shuffleboard. Go-cart racing. Rollerskating. Window shopping. Scavenger hunts at the mall. Spoil Mommy Day. Date Night with Dad. (I try to give each daughter a memorable date - as well as teach them how a girl should be treated by a guy - by opening the door for her, seating her, giving her preference, and talking about the love, admiration, and respect I have for their mom.) Hunting trips. Fishing. Camping. Hiking. Horseback riding. Mountain climbing. My kids still think I'm nuts for the day we packed a picnic basket with a white tablecloth, china, and candlesticks for breakfast at McDonald's.
One beautiful spring day many years ago I was tied up at the office until dark. My youngest boy had his best friend over, and they romped and played G.I. Joe for hours. Boy, were they having fun! I dragged into the house just before bedtime and picked up my happy boy, told him he was a champ, and bounced him like a basketball into the bed two or three times. It must have lasted all of ten seconds. Then it was time to brush his teeth, put on his P.J.'s, and hit the sack. As I tucked him in, I asked, "What was the highlight of your day today, Cooper?" I thought I'd hear tall tales of soldiers at war. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Getting bounced in the bed." "Really?" I asked, half-shocked. "Why is that?" He sunk in the truth: "'Cause you were there, Daddy . . . 'cause you were there."
CLOSING THE ZOO is hard work sometimes! I'll admit to a lot of failure in my home. Now that the kids are building their own homes and beginning to close their own zoos, I believe it was well worth the effort! Your scrapbook pages will be filled with great memories and your hearts will treasure the countless good times shared together as a family. Your grandchildren will carry the "shield of faith" from your intentionality as you CLOSE THE ZOO and, as a family, "got your good times together". For better families, Joe White, President Kanakuk Kamps (www.kanakuk.com)