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The Spiritual Practice of Parenting–Sitting on the Floor

February 15, 2013

If you click on the book list tab at the top of the page you will find a list of books divided into categories.  One of the categories is Spiritual Practices.  Ever since my first days in Austin some 15 years ago (how can it be that long???), I’ve been interested in spiritual practices–those things that help to bring one closer to God, whether it is through inward practices (done by yourself), outward practices (done for others–like volunteering), or communal practices (like participating in communion).  I somehow started attending a group at at a Catholic Spirituality Center on meditation and found myself doing weekly guided meditations in a group with women 20 -30 years older than me.  I read books about Praying with St. Benedict and was introduced to Henri Nouwen for the first time.  That led me to Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, which is a book entirely on spiritual practices.  I’ve been interested in reading about and using different spiritual practices since then.  You’ll find a few of my favorite books on my book list.


Several weeks ago, Isaac had a staph infection in his big toe.  He was pretty sick and it was painful for him to walk.  He missed two days of school, so he and I had a lot of time to hang out.  Once the antibiotic started working, he wanted me to play with him.  A lot.

I’m not the type of parent who easily sits on the floor and plays with her kids.  My parents didn’t sit on the floor and play with me.  We played games as a family, but I honestly have no memory of my mom playing Strawberry Shortcake with me.  There was too much work to be done with three kids born within 33 months of each other, a house to take care of, and large garden to tend.  I didn’t feel like my mom should be playing with me.  I don’t sit and play much with my kids–I’ll build marble tracks/legos/blocks with them, play games with them, or start them on art projects, but I don’t play with toys with them.  I don’t feel terribly guilty about it or like it’s something I should be doing more of either.  It’s just how it is.  My kids shouldn’t need me to entertain them.


When Isaac asked me to play with him, I sighed a little inside.  However, I knew he had been home by himself (without John and Madeleine) for three days and starting to get cabin fever.  I sat down on the floor with him and asked him what we are playing.  Fire men and fire trucks, complete with building a house for the fire man (whew!  I could do the building!).

It was hard sitting on the floor with him and playing.  I kept trying to find excuses for things I had to “get done.”  “No, Mama.”  Isaac kept telling me.  So I kept playing with him, trying to follow his lead and not take over everything and do it my grown-up way.

Although, I still don’t think I should need to entertain my children all the time, it was good to sit on the floor and play with him.  It was a spiritual practice–one that brought me closer to God and helped me to be a better parent.  It’s hard for me to sit that still and do nothing.  Even in my hobbies I accomplish something–a batch of cookies baked, Isaac’s quilt pieced, scrapbooks put together.  I had nothing to show for my time with Isaac–no finished product, no progress made.  Even when I sit in my quiet time, I feel like I’ve accomplished something I can check off my list.  Quiet time and Bible reading done for the day–check.  Playing with Isaac though was on no list, there was nothing accomplished.

For those brief fifteen minutes I sat on the floor, playing with Isaac, I was simply being.  For those ten minutes I sat in the chair and watched Isaac hit wiffle balls off the tee (“Into the tree fort, Mama!”–that didn’t happen, so he moved his tee into the tree fort), I was simply being.  I gave my undivided attention to Isaac.  It’s so rare for anything to get my undivided attention.  I’m talking to/refereeing the kids while I’m cooking, watching TV when I wash dishes, getting toast for a sick child while I write with Curious George playing in the background.

Those fifteen minutes taught me I need to do that a bit more frequently.  I need to spend fifteen minutes giving a child (or my husband) my undivided attention, doing exactly what they want me to do, instead of imposing my will on them.  This can also carry over to my set aside quiet time each day or time in worship on Sundays–fifteen minutes being absolutely still, listening to what God would tell me (or what God would not tell me in the silence), whether it is in quiet time or in worship, which is a bit harder with kids sitting next to me.  If I can’t get fifteen minutes, five or ten will do–or even just fully singing one song during the worship.

I have a sick one at home with me today.  She’s not terribly sick, just sick enough to be miserable–headache, sinus pressure, the fun stuff.  I am looking forward to her day home, despite the fact I won’t make it to my weekly yoga that I love so much.  I hope we can play a few games together, that maybe I can get fifteen minutes with her, to know her a bit better after today.  Maybe I’ll even need to sit on the floor.


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