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Am I a bad parent if I don't go to every one of my son's soccer games?

Q. My son is on two soccer teams — one in the rec department and one at school. Now my daughter is on a travel hockey team. My wife thinks we need to go to every game for both kids. I am exhausted each night after a long day at work. Am I really a bad father if I don’t go to every single game?

A. In the movies, parents sit glued to their seats watching as the underdog team pulls off an amazing play. But as much as we would like to be ever-attentive parents, real life is more challenging than the movies!

Families are systems

When children are young, parental work and social activities tend to set the stage for the family schedule. But as children’s activities get added, parents often don’t stop to think of how it will affect the entire family system.

A son enjoys playing soccer and a second team is added without discussion about family activities that will be displaced. A daughter loves hockey and the family is thrilled that she makes the travel team. But those schedules are demanding. Household chores get set aside; makeshift adjustments add stress. Meal times vary depending on game times and practices.

Parents might wonder what happened to their own exercise plans as they sit on the bleachers. When one parent is exhausted and the other’s expectations aren’t being met, then the system is out of balance. It is time to discuss changes that can nourish the family as a whole. “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7)

Plan a schedule

Parents need to talk about the meaning behind game attendance. Is it for the kids? Or does one parent consider it a kind of “couple time”? What can be done to help with after-work exhaustion? Would taking the dog for a 15-minute walk provide a second wind?

As a couple, plan a two-week schedule and adjust it as you go along and see how it works. Plan a time to discuss the new schedule; breakfast after church on Sunday may be a good time for family feedback. And make sure that the kids are doing age-appropriate household chores, too. Remember that you are all on the same team!