I have thee lively boys, and I am continuously seeking a balance in our family between activity and stillness, sound and silence, society and solitude. For the moment, I still have measure of control over the tenor of my children’s days, as the actual amount of time we spend together inevitably shrink, maintaining this balance becomes more important and more challenging.
Certainly there can be a very wide gap between my vision of harmonious family and the day-to-day reality. Many days we simply through a handful of balls up in the air and start juggling: work, school, paino lessons, volunteer work, playdates for the social, social obligations, school meetings, homework. The list goes.
Most of the Moms I know are performing some variation on this theme. That we are all efficiency experts almost goes without saying. How else could we meet our deadlines, care for our children, make time for our partners, and put dinner on the table every night?
Yet most of us also yearn for a quality in our lives that has nothing to do with accomplishments. It might be the desire for grace or spaciousness, for a sense of deeper connection with the universe, or simply, as Jordan said, for peace. It is a quality we know to be essential to our children’s lives - and yet is all to often missing from our own.
We do live on the run so much of the time. We are in too great a hurry to shape and enjoy the kind of meaningful interactions that define a family’s life and nurture each of its own members. Only by slowing down do we make time for one another. Only by stopping long enough to observe our surroundings can we bring form and meaning to our lives and make the small adjustments needed to stay on course.
Our children need this pause. Regular rest for the spirit is as necessary for their healthy growth as sleep, fresh air, and good food. Our children depend on us for three meals a day, they also need us to prepare peacefl spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.
When we create a haven of serenity - be it in a quiet room, by means of a simple ritual, or even in the space of a fleeting moment - we make room for spirit. I do not want my children to experience their lives as a dash from one thing to the next. I do want them to be bombarded with noise, information, media messages, etc. I do not want them to be pulled along on a current of activity and stimulation. They need time to stop and exhale, time to feel centered, safe, and whole.
In a society that endorses activity, I think we would all do well to put trust in stillness. No matter how busy we are, we can find meaning and renewal in moments that are available to us. We can come together in an intimate way, even at the end of a long, draining day, if we are willing to be fully present with our children - to take the time to hear their confidences and to respond from the heart. We can teach them the value of a deep breath, of a spiritual pause, or rest, if we take the time to learn it ourselves.
When I come to a stop myself, when I draw a circle of stillness around me, my children are drawn into that peaceful plae. They visibly relax, as if my very calmness nourishes them. The impact of just a few minutes of quiet attention can be profound, changing the mood of an entire day, restoring equilibrium to a distressed child, and to frazzled a mother!
We might sit side by side and draw, or gather up a stack of favorite picture books and read them, make strange creatures out of clay, or just cuddle on the couch and listen to music as the darkness falls. These are the moments when my children reveals themselves to me, when conversation spirals up and out, from here and now in the real of spirit and imagination. There, in that place Tennyson called the “quiet limit of the world,” we connect with one another at a very deep soul level. My children know then that they have my full attention and, even more important, that there’s no place I would rather be at that moment.
Jordan and I look out the window. We can see people shivering outside, and suddenly I see a snowflake. Jordan suddenly says, “They need scarves so they won’t be cold.”
In stillness, we find our peace. Knowing peace at home, we bring peace to the world.
(This piece was adapted from the book entitled Mitten String for God.)