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Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Making Time

April 19, 2013

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Wednesday afternoon, I did something I seldom do.  I walked away from my dirty bathrooms (ok, that I do a lot) and left the house.  I drove to a Starbucks (I know, I don’t normally like to frequent Starbucks, but I do too often), got a foofy girlie drink, and sat.  I found a table outside so I could enjoy the wonderful Austin spring we’ve been having.  I looked out over an old live oak tree and thought of the live oaks we saw while camping a couple of weeks ago, guessing this tree’s age was about 900 years younger than The Big One.  I felt the warm breeze and watched the whirligigs whirl.  I got out my large stack of cards, birthday and otherwise and enjoyed by 45 minutes until I had to start the afternoon pick up routine.

I don’t do this often–in fact, I can’t remember the last time I did.  I’ve sat in coffee shops recently, but spent the time frantically studying for a test I thankfully passed.  Plus, there’s just something about sitting outside on a warm spring day.  I thought of years and years ago, when I “studied” outside in college on warm April days.  I thought of days when I first came to Austin spent outside, reading and hanging out with friends.  However, I didn’t have many recent memories of just sitting outside and enjoying the day, other than afternoons spent out baseball diamonds or soccer fields–when I often I couldn’t notice outside because I was trying to prevent Isaac from busting himself up climbing on bleachers.

I need to do better at making time for myself.  As a parent, it’s a hard thing to do.  There’s always so much to get done, like my nasty bathrooms or the cupcakes that are waiting to be iced on my counter.  There’s volunteer commitments, practices, and errands.  It’s endless, whether you stay at home or go to work all day.  Too often, I feel like I am being judged by the quality of my housekeeping or my landscaping.  I worry that I don’t volunteer enough at the kids schools and there’s that haircut I’ve been needing for the past three months.

I need afternoons like I took the other day.  I need time to sit by myself outside and be quiet—to read if I feel like it or write cards if I feel like it.  It’s not selfish, it’s not lazy.  It’s necessary.  I left my 45 minutes outside insanely happy.  I noticed the detail on the peacock feathers on a metal sculpture chair as I walked to the card shop.  I looked around me and thought life was beautiful and God was good.

I picked up my three wild things and because I was in such a good mood agreed to go swimming at the indoor YMCA pool that afternoon because we had no where else I had to be.  When my littlest went running through the house with his pants around his ankles (he was running to get his suit so we could go swimming) and busted his head wide open when he hit the corner of our cased opening, I was able to handle it with gentleness and grace.  Instead of being frustrated that I was spending yet another afternoon getting a boy fixed up, I could be the calm parent my children needed and avoided getting too stressed by it all.

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It wasn’t laziness to take those 45 minutes.  It was essential and aided my family.  As often is preached about, Jesus made time for himself as well too.  He left the crowds, left the teaching, left the miracles to be done and at times, retreated to be by himself.  Why do I think I am less human than Jesus?  I need that time.  It’s hard some times to get away, because the stuff I am getting away from isn’t bad things–generally it’s good things that need to get done.  I have to do it though.  It allows me to be a better mother and love better.

What does this have to do with parenting?  Absolutely everything.  In addition to helping myself be a better mother by making time for myself, I am teaching my children self-care as well.   When I take time for myself, it helps me realize more how much my children need time to themselves.  I had forgotten that about my middlest for awhile.  Our schedule was so busy and full, he wasn’t getting the time to play by himself.  His behavior became worse and worse at home, as he had less and less time to himself–without siblings interfering or parents guiding.  Eventually, it took us way too long, we figured out part of the problem.   Our boy, who had always entertained himself so well and could play by himself for hours when he was younger, didn’t have time to himself now.   School sucked up way too much time and in our big enough house (so much bigger than many peoples houses), he didn’t have a place to retreat.  We flipped the doorknob on his room around so he lock his room from the inside (long story about why the doorknob was backward, maybe later?).  We became aware of his need to make time for himself.  When he started losing it, we suggested he play by himself for awhile, not because we didn’t want to be around him, but because it what he needed.

We teach our children so many things–how to get along with others and share, how to be responsible and independent, how to deal with winning and losing, who God is and the meaning of our relationship with God,  in addition to all the academic areas.  Teaching children how to take care of themselves is equally important.  Our words tell them one thing, our actions need to back it up.  Our children need to see us making time for ourselves and knowing what we need.    There’s no better way for me to teach John that than for me to be sure I am actively making time for myself too, whether it be sitting outside reading or writing, exercising, doing a hobby I love, or spending time with my husband or friends.  Whatever it is I need, I must do it.  For myself and for my family.

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