Complexity: A Family Enemy
What is life like in your family? Many people I talk to report that life is too busy and complicated. Parents feel like glorified cooks and taxi drivers, and kids feel like busy executives with every moment of their lives scheduled.
Andy Stanley, speaking at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast last week said, “Growth brings complexity and there is no way to avoid it.” A surefire way to make your life more complicated is to add children. Project Patch has become more complex with the addition of our Family Experience program in Goldendale, Wash. I’m thrilled with the impact it is making on kids and parents but wow, things were way easier before. As a parent you no doubt look back and remember what it was like when you could watch TV, exercise, and do laundry all in the same evening.
Andy Stanley went on to say, “Complexity is the enemy of clarity.” This isn’t only true for growing businesses but it’s true for growing families (size or age of kids). Newborn babies are a lot of work but there is a whole new level of complexity that comes with toddlers. My wife and I recently took our girls to the coast and I was stunned by how much stuff a simple trip required. I’m trying to put into words this new law of nature in which 40% more stuff appears the moment I think I’ve packed everything imaginable into the trunk. Also, there is a parallel law in which the only item you need during a trip is the one that is hardest to reach. Life is complicated and complex with kids.
In general, people react in two extreme ways when facing too much complexity. Give up or go into crazy mode.
A lady at the grocery store reacted to her out of control kids by saying to me, “@$#& kids will be @$#& kids”. I didn’t know how the respond to her but I did understand the frustration that parents face when life is just plain overwhelming and our kids aren’t making things any easier. The problem with giving up is that life takes over and we lose boundaries. In the extreme it is letting go of the steering wheel and putting on cruise control and hoping you end up where you need to go. The wish is good but the likelihood of getting there safely is really low.
The other option is to try to become hyper-vigilant and controlling. While this can bring some order to life, the areas that are most easily managed and controllable tend to create micro managers who meddle in the petty while leaving the big areas of focus unattended. The car is still on cruise control and not being driven but at least it is clean with no cheerios under the seats. We have seen so many kids at Patch who are really look good on the outside, can quote scripture by the page and sit without batting an eye in church but have no love for anything related to God. Their parents micromanaged the details of spiritual learning without vision for the big picture.
Andy suggested three questions to ask to keep things simple(r):
- What are we doing?
- Why are we doing it?
- Where do I fit in?
These three question don’t solve the problem of complexity but they start bringing some focus; not only giving us keys on how to act in the moment but direction on where we want to head.
What are we doing? At Project Patch we answer this question with “Building stronger families and restoring troubled teens.” All our activity needs to be focused on these two things. What is the mission for your family? What are you trying to accomplish?
Why are we doing it? As a parent I think it is really easy for us to lose perspective on our task. When we forget why we are doing something we lose motivation and pretty soon it becomes a job. A job only motivates based on getting paid, not the process but when the why is clear it becomes a crusade, a passion, something you can be emotional about.
Where do I fit in? This question really focuses on what you as a parent are going to bring to the table. Can you summarize your role as a parent in a one-sentence Job description? I can’t answer for you what your one sentence job description is and I won’t give you mine because the process in coming up with one is as important as the outcome. I can tell you that having clarity in your purpose allows you to find focus in the midst of all the stuff that tries to take your attention.
In my next post, we’ll continue looking at reducing complexity and focusing on bringing clarity to our homes. We’ll do that by learning how to prune for growth and life!
Question: What areas of complexity have surprised you as a parent and what have you done to bring more clarity to your family?