I am a father of three children, ages 7, 13 and 15. I am the only driver in the house, so I am constantly on the go. I pick up and deliver kids to three different schools each day. There are sports practices and games all year round. Birthday party invites seem to come weekly, not to mention sleepovers and slumber parties. All of this makes family time a bit difficult.
There are times when I am forced to tell my teenagers, “No,” to doing something fun with their friends, so that we may have a night of family time. My daughter, who is now in high school, feels she misses out on a lot when I won’t allow her to go to a football game so that we can spend quality family time together. The thing is, she has no interest in the actual football game. I believe, in the end, she really enjoys hanging out watching movies and eating popcorn with her brothers.
My seven-year-old comes home with many birthday party invites. These are usually on the weekends when we have the chance to spend time together as a family. I can easily convince him to skip a party, as long as I come up with something fun to do as a family. There have been times where I have “accidentally” forgotten about the party. I usually don’t hear from him about it until after his first day back to school with his friends.
I just recently got to thinking about the last time we, as a family, took a vacation outside of the state of Missouri. I realized it had been six years. My youngest was one-year-old when we went to Disney World in Orlando. Yes, we take small trips to KC, St Louis, Branson, Jeff City, Columbia and Lake of the Ozarks, but they need to experience more.
I made the decision to plan and book a weeklong trip this December. The kids will have to miss four days of school, but I feel like it’s worth it. I will surprise them with this pre-Christmas trip, right before we are set to leave.
While there will always be the “fear of missing out” for our children, we as parents can turn those moments into “joys of missing out.”
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
FOMO – that’s what some people use for “Fear of Missing Out,” that is, being so concerned about missing something important you are rarely actually present in the moment. For some, this means constant connection to social media. Who hasn’t seen people in a lovely setting – couples in a cozy restaurant, families at the beach or on vacation, parents at the park with their children – but they are really somewhere else because their attention is their phones. They are really fairly oblivious to what is going on right in front of their nose because they’re distracted by, and engaged with, something on their smart phone. In many cases they have FOMO, a fear of missing out on a group text, a post on Instagram or Facebook, or an interaction on an online game. There are so many options to grab their attention and they fear missing out.
FOMO can be a problem with social media, but it can also be a concern when it comes to our kids’ activities. There’s real pressure to put kids in sports at earlier and earlier ages. I recently heard a parent say she has some regret about not putting her children in basketball earlier because now they were “so far behind” skill-wise as 11-year-olds she didn’t know if they could catch up. It wasn’t that long ago that 10- and 11-year-olds were just beginning to learn skills related to soccer, basketball, volleyball and the like, but in the past 15-20 years, pressure to participate has pushed down to younger and younger children. It’s not uncommon now to see 4-year-olds enrolled in organized sports. I doubt that a majority of parents enjoy spending a significant portion of their Saturday morning standing on the sidelines of a soccer field, especially when their children are quite young. I would guess that many feel pressure from other parents and they “fear missing out” for their child’s sake. Kids start so young these days. What if their child is left out?
I’ve got nothing against organized sports, music lessons, gymnastics, karate, or any number of things we allow our children to try. The problem comes when families are so over-scheduled they rarely spend time sitting at the same table eating with and talking to each other. When this happens, most conversations take place in a car coming or going from an event if – and this is a big if – kids and parents are not distracted by radio, podcasts, videos in the back seat, and so on. Over time, kids tend to feel more disconnected from their parents and parents find it hard to engage their children.
What’s a concerned parent to do? Here are few things to consider:
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
This is my first attempt at writing for a blog, so please, set your expectations low and take it easy on me. In the grand scheme of things, I am a rookie at this parenting thing. I'm figuring it out as I go (or possibly making it up as I go) and I by no means have it all figured out. But, then again, no one does. I am the father of two young children: a 3-year-old daughter and a son who is a little over 1-years-old. They certainly keep my wife and I busy . . . and entertained.
The topic I was given is a difficult one: "Fear of Missing Out vs. Joy of Missing Out? How much activity is best?" I feel like this is very subjective and varies with every child (and every parent). The easy answer is that the answer depends on the kid. But, something else occurred to me when I was writing: this topic could be viewed two-ways . . . the parent’s point of view and the child’s point of view. So, I decided to write about that.
Both of our kids have a serious case of Fear of Missing Out, or as we like to call it, FOMO. They always think they are missing out on something, or that someone else is doing something fun they are missing out on. For our oldest, this has led to issues getting her to sleep or dropping her off at daycare. We've tried to convince her we aren't doing anything fun after she goes to bed . . . unless you consider meal-prepping for the next day or washing dishes fun. Recently, my wife took our daughter to a dentist appointment and dropped her off at daycare afterwards. That led to a meltdown because my daughter wanted to stay with my wife. My wife is an accountant and tried to explain to our daughter absolutely nothing fun was going to happen when she was at work. Her words fell upon deaf ears because my daughter KNEW she was missing out on something.
At the same time, we try not to cram-pack our free time with activities. I think this is where the Joy of Missing Out comes into play. At this stage in the game, we've limited our kids’ activities to mainly just swim lessons. My wife has done some mom and baby yoga a handful of times, but we don't want to overwhelm them. Actually, if we're being honest, we don't want to overwhelm us. We would much rather have a family dinner at home and go for a walk or watch a movie than spend two hours at a 3-year-old t-ball practice. I'm not knocking other parents, because I would never do that (see the statement above about it varying with every child and parent). But, you won't find me at any sort of organized sport activity for at least 5 more years. I don't have the patience to sit and watch. For me, that is the joy of missing out (for parents and for kids). I think this FOMO for parents sometimes leads to overwhelming schedules and burnt-out kids.
It occurred to me that we, as parents, have a case of FOMO as well. At least I know I do. We don't want to miss out on the amazing things our kids do. We don't want to miss out on fun they're having, e.g., first words, first steps, seeing their personalities develop. The reality is we cannot be there for absolutely everything. When my wife tells me she was playing with our son and he said, "sister," I spend the next 10 minutes trying to get him to re-create the moment because I don't want to miss that moment.
In closing, I will fall back on my original assessment, i.e., "How much activity is best?" depends on the child and the situation. It is important to find that balance. We try to let our kids be who they are and do what they want to do. To that end, I think it is important to let them try what they want to try. But, I also think it is important to make them finish what they start. Lastly, we try really hard not to make our kids participate in something that they don’t want to do. To that end, I don’t think you should make a kid do an activity just because you want them to do it. I think that is parental FOMO and that has the potential to turn out badly.
Clayton Ballard is the father of two small children. He is also a Good Dads board member and an attorney for Great Southern Bank. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently had a total hip replacement. In good care of my new hip I am faced with my doctor’s good counsel of how much activity is the right amount of activity. In the true spirit of Goldilocks I am not to do too much or too little. There is a balance of activity for me that is just right.
Parents sometimes struggle with this balance of too much and too little when it comes to the activity of their children. Parents can be led to believe that if their children are not doing everything, or much of everything, than their children are missing out on something. Parents can be led to believe that their children must try a little bit of everything to find out what they might be really good at – from voice lessons and violin, soccer and saxophone, skating and skiing and scouting.
There are two diving forces that pressure parents into too much activity. On one hand, parents want to position their children for greatness so that their children have the best of all opportunities. And on the other hand, parents know just how cruel and critical the world can be. Parents then position their children for greatness in hopes of protecting their children from bullies and critical people.
First, your children will not be the best at anything. They won’t. Get over it. Your children are average and just fine the way they are. Second, you will never protect your children from bullies or critics. You won’t. I am sorry.
So, as Good Dads, let us not burden our children with the unfortunate expectations of others -- not well intended grandparents, neighbors, or the people of the church. You are the Dad – and you are a Good Dad. Do not “outsource” your child’s health, confidence, or esteem to anyone other than you.
Ask yourself right now, “What do I most want for my child?” And now ask yourself “Who is the best person to provide these values and opportunities for my child?”
Involve your children in dialogue and choices of what activities that they pursue, and what they will not. Allow your children a voice in the matter and do not shame them when they no longer want to play soccer or the saxophone. It is okay for our children to try new things and it is okay for our children to say when enough is enough.
More important than your child’s activities are the values your children are learning. As a Good Dad, your personal one – on – one time with your children gives you the time to nurture and encourage your children to be the people you most want them to be. In the Spirit of Goldilocks you do not want your children to be too much of this or too much of that. You want them to be just right.
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.