In some parts of the country, school is right around the corner; in other parts, school has already begun. All across the States, parents are (re) adjusting to a new normal, with weary children, school runs, sports practices, and for many, the introduction to parent-teacher associations.

The rat-race has begun.

And, for many, events will soon fill family calendars. Between work, school, sports, and extracurriculars, the seemingly lazy days of summer quickly turn into a frenetic pace that is the school year.

Therefore, on the eve of this annual event, it’s important we, as parents, take a step back, inhale deeply, exhale thoroughly and know:

It. is. okay. to. say. no.

Our children look to the adults in their lives as the models. We are the harbinger of the future. They will take their social cues from what they see us do; they will set their own internal expectations, motivations, and drive based on what they observe. Even when they don’t seem to be watching, they are all children and are soaking up everything they see around themselves.

Our culture is busy. From an early age, our children are immersed in messages that faster is better, newer is preferred, and being constantly available is the desired modus operandi. Experts across the country remark at how busy we live life, constantly on the go, contrasting with generations past.

This constant energy we expend leads to families becoming stressed, operating at a tempo which creates fatigue… and burnout.

This year, let us, as parents, take a firm look at the example we are setting for our children. Let them see us giving ourselves permission to put our families first.

Let them see us politely and respectfully decline “one more” activity which will draw us away from our homes and our families one more evening.

Let them see us set boundaries—limiting activities per quarter, semester, year for each child.

Let them see us set boundaries for ourselves—choosing the right number of activities that will optimize the balance between life and family.

Let them see us bring back one lazy morning a week—perhaps not necessarily lazy for the parents, but a lazy and slow morning for the rest of the household.

Let them see us bring back family meals more nights than not, which focus on sharing failures, and more importantly, successes of our day.

Let them see us keep technology away from the table, focusing on each other, basking in the adventures of our children’s daily lives, while regaling them with our memories and our own daily travels.

Let us pledge to focus on the family this year.

Certainly, things will get in the way, and are bound to crop up unexpectedly. Family time can be slightly fluid dependent on employment and family necessities.

However, what this post advocates is a redefining of what constitutes a necessity.

It advocates recognizing the value of a family-first mentality.

It advocates being aware of the example we, as adults, set for our children, knowing they are watching, learning, and trying to meet the challenge of life as modeled by the adults around them.

What this post advocates is reminding ourselves, at the end of a busy day or week, it is okay to say no to one more activity.

What this post is advocating is to say yes to our families and our friends, putting the utmost focus back on relationship.

Let us remind ourselves, as well as our children, that our society is built on the foundation of family. Human nature craves relationship, and the best way to enhance a relationship is to reach out and meet another where they are sitting—in this case, under the same roof.

AnnAliese Harry

AnnAliese is a proud Army wife and mother to two young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked extensively with children and families in both clinical settings and as a case manager. Since the birth of her children, she has taken a hiatus from paid employment, and devotes time to volunteering at whichever military chapel the family attends. She currently blogs about topics of faith, parenting, and military life at You can follow her on Twitter, on Instagram or on Facebook at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life.