“If your boys don’t play travel soccer, they’ll never make the high-school team,” a parent warned me. Ironically, I’d coached his son since he was five. Having seen kids burn out trying to keep their parents’ pace, I didn’t take the bait.
Parents hope their children will stay off drugs, get into Harvard on an athletic scholarship, and develop all the emotional intelligence they themselves hope to have some day. The temptation is to keep upping the ante to make it all happen. “If I can just get them that better teacher,” “If we just send them to that worldview training camp,” “If we just spend all our weekends on travel ball….” I’ve seen this approach all over the country and felt the pressure of it myself. You think some “silver bullet” will ensure outcomes. You’re looking for a big insurance plan. Instead, you need something small. You need a home with hum.
What is hum?
There’s no perfect home, but some homes hum. Hum is a certain environment that brings out the best in everyone. James K.A. Smith says that every household has a certain vibe or ethos influencing the people living there. The warp and woof, the rhythm and pace of life has the greatest bearing on how people grow.
Our family is somewhere between 0 and 100% on this ourselves, but here are five key ingredients that need intention…
At a red light, I observed an old Highlander and a new Range Rover side by side. I thought to myself, “The driver owns the one and the bank, the other. If you must have it all now, then you have little chance of achieving hum. Hum requires some margin, some breathing room just to be present. A career or financial goal may have to wait in order to make a priority of hum.
Not all hearing is listening. Listening seeks not only what’s being said but also what’s driving it. In the play, Our Town, a young girl relives a day of her choosing after her death. She picks her 10th Birthday, but in short order finds disappointment. Her family hardly noticed one another. Like an iceberg, much more resides under the surface of what we say.
Unless parents of the house are in charge of the screens, the screens will parent the house. Besides the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), what motivates kids to want a smart phone or a parent to provide it? Teens are more connected yet more anxious and lonely than ever. Delay the smart phone. Limit other big screens to family entertainment. In this pattern, kids will be more available when you pull out a board game, tennis racket, or deck of cards.
More is caught than taught. Your kindness to a server, your courteous tone of voice, your patient reply when asked to repeat something for the third time–can become viewed by your kids as normal. An environment with respect for boundaries, especially in the crucible of daily demands, will create an environment of emotional health. That’s hum.
Years ago, a friend of my daughter mocked our family for sitting down together for dinner. She was being lighthearted, but really did find it weird. That time. Then she came back, and back. The hunger for home identity is innate. Most kids without any point of reference can sense some vacuum, but few could articulate what’s missing. Set this priority, enforce it cheerfully, and let your kids deal with how to navigate it.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow….” -Matt. 6:28