While waiting at one of my kids’ activities recently, I overheard an exchange between two other moms, in which they shared with each other details about their packed-to-the-gills afternoon/evening schedule that day, carting their children to and from multiple activities. The conversation concluded with one of them remarking, “These kids are SO busy!! But whaddya gonna do??”, at which point both moms then shrugged, shook their heads and smiled those smiles of resigned acceptance that come with acknowledging the “fullness of life”–or in other words, the craziness!–that seems to define parenthood these days.
I can relate. I’ve been there–living in that “fullness of life,” trying to coordinate our crazy lives and full schedules, jam-packed with school stuff, church stuff, sports stuff, and musical stuff. And that was just the kids’ stuff! Added to that was my husband’s stuff, which was primarily but not solely work-related, plus all of my stuff, the bulk of which was volunteer commitments, social engagements, and occasional workouts at the local gym.
My stuff, along with my husband’s stuff, added to all of the kids’ stuff…equaled a lot of stuff!…which made for a pretty packed schedule, which led to a fair amount of “crazy”! Depending on how many things we had on our calendar at any given time, the level of busy-ness varied, but always, and unquestionably, our lives were full.
That is no longer true. Our schedule is no longer that full. I simply do not have the energy to maintain that pace, which, in reality, means that no one else in the family can, either. Out of necessity there are more empty spaces on our calendar now. It is no longer safe to assume that our family will be participating in every possible school or church function. There are days during the week when there are no practices, no classes, no meetings, no nothing after school or on into the evening. “Yes!” is no longer my automatic answer to the question, “Hey Deb, do you think you can help with [fill-in-the-blank-with-some-sort-of-meaningful-volunteer-opportunity]?” or even “Hey Deb, do you want to [fill-in-the-blank-again-but-this-time-with-something-purely-fun-and-with-friends!]?” And our weekends are more often spent at home than out and about, which I am finding to be quite lovely (not only do we spend more time hanging out together, but we spend more time doing chores together…and more chores for the kids equals fewer chores for me! What’s not to like??).
The fact is that our lives are no longer full-to-bursting. Our kids still have their stuff, my husband still has his stuff, I still have my stuff, and sometimes we all have “all-together stuff”! But overall, there’s just not as much stuff filling our calendar these days. Our lives are no longer as full as they once were.
Well–our lives, as defined by our schedules, are no longer as full as they once were. Interestingly, I’m finding that in other ways, our lives are more full than they’ve ever been….
“Worley, what the heck are you talking about? You’re full of something, that’s for sure!”
What am I talking about? What is it that gives our lives fullness now, if not our list of activities? It’s actually a hard thing to define, a hard question to answer, even though I’m the one asking it! As I’ve thought about it, though, I’ve come up with a single word that best captures what it is I’m talking about, and that word is space. There is a fullness in our lives that comes from having space.
There’s space to breathe. We all have moments of much-needed down time–time to decompress, time to unwind, time to let our minds and our bodies slow down and not be productive…and realize that that’s okay!
There’s space to play. In addition to playing the occasional board game all together and even tossing a football around as a family, the boys have time to play in the backyard, making up off-road mini golf courses and creating games oriented around the rather large pit they dug in the dirt; and my daughter has time to lose herself in whatever book she is currently reading. My husband has time to get out his new microscope and look at the chin whiskers of a spider (and show the rest of us, too–pretty amazing, really, in a disgusting kind of way!), and get out his camera and try to capture a shot of the hummingbird who’s stopped for the briefest of moments at our feeder. And I have time to look up new recipes to try, read books for fun, and play the piano a little, even plunking out the occasional duet with my son!
There’s space to laugh. The kids read Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes books and laugh out loud; we read the Sunday comics and chuckle; and…dare I say it?…we regularly watch silly TV shows and movies together…while we eat supper!!! Yes. We eat supper in front of the TV. Almost every night! There. I said it! We all enjoy it–even me–and no one–including me!–really wants me to succeed in my perpetually-just-out-of-reach goal of cleaning off the kitchen table so we can eat there! In my defense, I have felt varying degrees of guilt for what seems to have become our new normal (rather than “What’s for supper?” the question of the hour each night has become “What are we watching tonight?”!!), but I have become convinced that our souls are undoubtedly being nourished by our shared laughter no less than our bodies are being fed by our shared meal. In fact, depending on what we’re actually eating on any given night, our souls just might end up being more well-nourished than our bodies!! 🙂
There’s space to work together, as I alluded to above. Chores are shared (woo hoo!), responsibility is learned (hopefully…), and satisfaction is gained from a job well done. Well, for the kids, satisfaction comes, simply, when the job is done; the “well-done” part provides satisfaction primarily for their parents at this point and generally requires a little extra prodding! Our fingers are crossed, though, that in the process of working together and sharing responsibilities, our children are having ingrained in them the very important life lesson which says that all the complaining in the world won’t get you out of cleaning the kitty litter box.
There’s space to be creative. Turns out we can be kind of a creative bunch when we let ourselves! There have been times when that creativity has taken the form of a disgusting science experiment–think: “What will this moldy bread look like after a week [or two!] in this jar?” Sometimes it is expressed in the form of a homemade board game–in “Escaping Saturn,” for example, created by our youngest, you have to go back to the beginning if you land on space #90: “Aliens take you home for meat. Go to start,” but you’re in luck if you land on space #76: “You hitch-hike on a UFO. Go to space#86.” Sometimes, creativity finds its expression in the form of a new recipe that’s just begging to be prepared–“Mommy, can I try to make this molten lava cake? We have all of the ingredients….” How can I say no to that?? 🙂 At other times, other members of the family give outlet to their creative urges with a pencil, doodling on a scrap paper or creating elaborate drawings in a sketchbook; or with a camera, capturing moments with the click of the shutter ranging from the ordinary–“Which of these twelve pictures of Cora [the cat] lying on my bed do you like best??”–to the extraordinary–using a telescope and then a camera to take an impressively close-up picture of moon, craters and all. And for at least one of us, the most enjoyable creative outlet is writing…. Enough said. 🙂
There is space.
In this season of our lives, that has been defined in large part by my ongoing fatigue and its consequent very real limitations for all of us, there is space. In the simplifying of our schedules, we were left with some holes in our calendar, but rather than finding emptiness in those places, we have found a fullness in our lives as a family. And it is good.
Does that mean a complete absence of chaos in our lives? No. Has it been an effortless exchange of hurriedness for blissful happiness? By no means. Am I saying that all bickering, impatience, frustration, exhaustion, and scheduling conflicts have ceased and that we live all together in a state of eternal harmony and peace? HA!
There’s still plenty of bickering. The last-minute scramble as we try to get out the door persists. We still occasionally have cereal and corn dogs for supper, because neither I, nor anyone else, has the energy or desire to cook. And we continue to rely on assistance from the neighborhood carpool to get everyone where they need to be in a timely manner! But in the midst of all of that, we have stumbled upon a different kind of fullness than we had known before. Within the confines of my limited energy, and the restrictions that that has effectively put on all of our lives, both as individuals and as a family, we have discovered a fullness of life that is not dependent on a fullness of schedule. Believe it or not!
And for us, for now, it’s good.
Thanks be to God. Now where’s that last piece of molten lava cake?….. 🙂
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full….” (John 10:10)