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Family time-management simplified
I think it will happen even when there are no children in my house. Even when I am very old. The school bus will lumber by my front door for the first time in a bright September season and my pulse will quicken just a bit. The apples will suddenly seem crisper. I will tell myself (even if it isn’t so quite yet) that there is a nip in the air. The rhythm of my life will gratefully welcome the routines of golden autumn days.
At least in theory.
My reality, for the last five autumns or so, is that my heart pounds in my chest and my stomach churns the first few weeks of the new school year. And my children don’t even go to school. We educate them at home. That’s the easy part. With the new season come new expectations, pages of forms to fill out (and have notarized) and hours tussling with the calendar program on my laptop, trying to make each child’s individual color bar not overlap with too many others — trying not to make our family rhythm a hopelessly muddy mess.
There is a tension that comes with having children. We want so much to offer them opportunities — lessons and sports and clubs that will teach them to cooperate and to lead and to create and to achieve.
And yet we know that there is inherent value in evenings with the whole family gathered around a home-cooked meal in our own kitchen. There is value in an impromptu hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains on an orange-and-gold-tinged autumn Saturday. There is value in spending a blustery afternoon curled up in an overstuffed chair with a good children’s novel. So, we spend hours in front of a calendar, fervently hoping that we’re making the right choices, saying “no” often enough, and nodding in assent to only the best. We pray we’re leaving room enough for things that fill our souls.
As I tinker with time slots, I muse about the rhythms God gives to us, the rhythms that are for our good, if only we will seize them. Seven times a day, the church stops to pray. Just as the saints of old, voices of the digital generation turn toward God and reorient their souls to the Father. Do I stop when they do, for as few as 15 minutes at a time, to take a breath and inhale grace? Then there is the greater rhythm, the cadence of the church year. With the saints and in community, we feast and we fast; we mark the days and the seasons as we remember those saints who now intercede for us.
If I lived the liturgical year more intentionally, lived the Liturgy of the Hours with my whole heart every day, made it to Mass on weekdays, would all those other things — the things of the secular world — fall into place with ease? Maybe. Maybe not. But if I live that way, in step with the Lord, I am more likely to recognize the rhythm He desires for my children. I am more likely to be aware of the opportunities He presents every day to make meaningful all the moments He graciously gives us. I think it’s worth a try. All I have to lose is a muddled mess of conflicting colors on a well-constructed, but hopelessly complicated, family calendar.
Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.