You know you are a parent when you cannot wait until school starts! For years, I dreaded the end of summer vacation and the end of things like sleeping in, watching TV in my pajamas until friends came knocking and bedtimes pushed back for bonfires and s’mores, and “Kick the Can.”
Then I became a parent of three. Not only am I responsible for these young lives, but I have a relationship to manage with the wonderful person with whom I chose to raise children. Include on that list keeping on top of my career and fortifying my personal relationship with God. Wow!
If you are like me, when that school bus pulled away at the start of the school year, the coffee tasted much richer!
If there is anything to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, then I am the first to gladly share the responsibility of raising my children. It also helps if their school teachers are fantastic, which ours are!
In this first article of the season, I have more questions than answers to share.
Lately, the Yin and Yang of parenting, defined as the balance of parenting, has captured my interest. How can we as parents find and keep balance?
The beginning of the school year in my house means structure. There is a set time for almost everything. Working from home – or even for stay-at-home parents – the start of the school year means you gain some sense of control of your day… or does it?
Does the modern-day parent and family live in an over-structured world? Recess duty, volunteering at school, carpooling, karate, flag football, chess club, Spanish class, homework, volleyball, sewing class, art classes, theater, gymnastics, Brownies….. Did I miss any? And that is fall in my house. Forget babysitters; we need a taxi driver.
Where do sandboxes, fort building, fishing, bike riding, tree climbing and creative play fit in? Sure, the time exists in summer for this more freeform, creative play, but oh how the pendulum swings!
Do your kids’ schedules dominate your life and crowd out other important things? Where is the time for the parents? Where is “family” time? Where is “You” time? Where is time for God? And if these exist, are they somewhat balanced? Is one more important than the other? I told you I had a lot of questions.
When I drop the kids off at school, I take that sip of coffee with a sense of accomplishment – as though I just crossed the finish line of the Tough Mudder. But then the series of sprints begin.
First, it’s work … then, the rat race of afterschool activities, mixed in with a relatively quick dinner. And we don’t have any teens yet that run around during the dinner hour.
If we’re lucky, my wife and I enjoy a glass of wine as the last scampers jump in and out of bed above us. Throw in email, Facebook, the news, and a favorite TV show. Anyone know the customer service number for Father Time? I need more!
I’m an idea guy. OK, so I have lots of questions, too. Instead of answers, I have ideas. My idea is to befriend these Yin and Yang characters that pull us in opposite directions and unite them in a harmonious relationship to make sure all parts of my family stay sane.
Maybe I am overstating this a bit … maybe not. I can see a storm when it’s coming. Our society throws a ton at us and does an amazing job telling us why it all has value. Why is it then that those of us with the most inked up calendars aren’t feeling the benefits from these experiences? Rather, we feel harried.
In the summer, S’more moments happen. They aren’t always scheduled. You know the feeling… “Honey, do we have anything tonight?” And when she replies “No” your heart leaps for joy. Ahhh, breathing room to just hang out and let relationships unfold.
What happens when you have space in your life is amazing. You breathe. When you breathe, you relax. When you relax, life and all of its relationships sink in and root themselves deeply – just like the melted chocolate and ooze of the marshmallow in a S’more.
During the school year our calendars own us to a far greater degree. As this dad sees it… I need to take the bull by the horns a bit more and make space for the S’more moments in my family.
God doesn’t thrive in constricted space. He lives in the S’more moments that take time to develop. These cherished S’more moments unite and strengthen the bonds of a family just like the bond of a melted marshmallow. Our calendars need to be intentionally weeded out occasionally in order to keep special space for mom and dad time, family time, alone time. We will encounter God in these special moments that naturally unfold.
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. Dt 32:1-2
(Jeff and Jennifer Wenzler are running a zone defense with their three wonderfully active children. Jeff is the founder and executive director of Pivotal Directions, a servant-leadership program for youth. Jennifer works for a biotech company that provides Multiple Sclerosis therapies. They are members of Lumen Christi Parish, Mequon.) Jeff Wenzler