Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from Katrina Kenison’s book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry (Grand Central Publishing, 2002)
Being a mother today seems to require that we move too fast most of the time. Much as we may crave quiet interludes with our children, family mealtimes, and meaningful rituals, many of us have resigned ourselves to life without them. There may be days when we barely manage to bring the members of our families together in the same room at the same time–let alone share our innermost thoughts, a joke, or a moment of quiet intimacy.
Yet we also know that our relationships–with ourselves and with each other–need time if they are to flourish. Parents and children alike need time for solitude, time to stretch and think and wonder, time to become acquainted with ourselves and with the world around us. And parents and children need sacred time together, time that is carved out of our busy lives, projected and honored but not scheduled. Time, instead, for just being.
Most of us came of age in a world that was quite different from the one our children now inhabit. As a child I was fed and clothed and loved and cared for–and otherwise left to my own devices a good deal of the time. Even a generation ago, childhood could still be experienced an accumulation of idle hours, hours in which we were allowed to discover the world for ourselves.
We can’t reclaim those spacious hours, any more than we can turn back the hands of the time and return to that more innocent age. But the lessons taught by the solitude and imposed leisure of childhood are still imprinted on our souls. As children we learned the pleasure of our own company, how to be happy where we were with what we had, how to fill an empty afternoon. But I wonder: Do we give our own children time enough to absorb the subtle teaching of such tranquil moments? Are we granting them the time they need to develop an inner life as well as a social one? I remember many, many days when I had nothing but time. Yet today I find that I have to struggle to give my own children the very ease and space that I once took for granted.No, we cannot turn back the hands of time. But as the overworked, exhausted parents of a generation of busy, overstimulated children, we can slow down the pace of daily life in our own homes. We can gently reshape lives that have become overstuffed and overly stressful. We can give our children fewer activities and more room in which to breathe, fewer lessons and more time in which to make their own discoveries. We can take a good look at our own maxed-out calenders and crowded lives and let go of the activities and commitments that don’t enrich our days. We can be easier on ourselves and demand less of our children. We can protect and honor quiet, unscheduled time, and we can bequeath it to our sons and daughters.
QUESTION: What great experiences have you had because you left space in your calendar?
CHALLENGE: Look at your current schedule and identify one thing you could do to slow your pace and provide a little more breathing room.