I've heard this twice lately: to children, there is no such concept as quality time; instead, all they truly discern is time spent together or apart. Our family has been vacationing in central Oregon the past few days, and it's been renewing--not so much for the change of scenery, though the high desert beauty is arresting, but for the time spent en famille.
Here, my husband is able to spend the daytime hours taking our children on bike rides, playing Monopoly, swimming, and preparing us savory meals. No wonder my children love coming to central Oregon as a family!
Of course, life cannot and should not be a perpetual vacation. Work must be a regular, significant part of our adult lives. In addition to teaching high school social studies, my husband coaches cross country in the fall and track & field in the spring. During those seasons, our children must subsist on an hour or two each night with their papa, and two days out of the week they don't see him at all. Those seasons without my husband's regular presence are difficult ones--my children grow irritable and my fatigue becomes palpable.
Summer, however, brings relational restoration, when the four of us are together for most activities. It is God's grace bestowed as we reconcile, reconnect, and grow together once again. For me, the seasons of family separation are made bearable with the knowledge that a season of restoration lies ahead.
Perhaps you don't have regular ebbs and flows in your family's time together, or maybe your role as a parent feels more like a constant storm to weather alone. My heart goes out to you, mes amis, for enduring these times of family separation with fortitude and grace: grace to extend to the missing spouse, and grace to extend to your children, who seldom understand the reason for an absent parent. Don't overlook grace for yourself, too, as you learn patience and endurance. (Romans 4:3-4 tells us that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance develops character, and character produces hope.)
Here are the practical points I'm learning for weathering the seasons when my husband's work pulls him away:
- Try to keep the pantry and fridge stocked. Meal planning is far easier and emotions are more stable when everyone's well fed. Grocery delivery services are often worth the fee (and will cut down on impulse purchases) during these times.
- Plan creative activities at home. Getting children engaged in open-ended activities (like designing marble runs from toilet paper rolls or making bird feeders from natural materials) passes the time quickly and enjoyably. We're all happiest when we're occupied with fulfilling activities.
- Take the opportunity to connect with your partner, however and whenever possible. We all understand that staying in touch is important, but our intentions need to turn into meaningful connections as often as possible. Reaching out and responding are at the core of continued relationship.
- Wind down early to read and pray with your children. Getting ready for bed early allows time for peace to unfold in our lives. We never outgrow our love for good stories or our need to voice our thoughts and concerns with those we trust.
Do you have a family vacation in sight, my friends? Which family seasons do you go through with regularity?
May your family's days hold grace and hope in the season ahead!