It is possible that I am delusional enough that I see myself as a superhero, who is shielding her family from a gigantic unstoppable time-eating Monster on a daily basis. If you’re picturing it, I’m wearing red, since red is my power color. Also, you can imagine some jewel encrusted arm cuffs and boots. Fierce and fabulous, right?
The greedy time-eating Monster doesn’t realize he is my adversary, because it’s just who he is by nature. It’s just that I made an oath years ago to guard my family from him while time is still on my side.
When I was growing up, Saturdays were family days since we all went to school during the week and Dad traveled often. We typically were not allowed to run off to neighbor’s homes, our parents kept a pretty close watch on us. After practicing the piano and doing a chore or two, it was time to go play tennis together or go to the library. Often Dad would take us to a cool festival, or performance. And occasionally someone’s friend who couldn’t be shaken off the door step would tag along and be the unwilling recipient of a cultural experience. We can look back and laugh about memories of friends who would come over and knock on the door, and ask “what’s going on in there? why can’t you come out and play?” Typically we’d respond “Can’t yet,” because it was easier than explaining that we were taking dictation, reading the newspaper or playing “spin the globe and spell that country by memory.” Is that a real game? Please lie to me if it’s not.
Yes, Nintendo was probably more fun. But 30 years later I can thank my parents for teaching me the value of contentedness at home, with learning how to occupy myself if I felt bored, and not feeling lost in the presence of a quiet moment. Even though we were each involved in music and at least one sport, my memories of weekends revolve around being at home, or out with family. Sunday Mass was the culmination of our time together. As we got older of course, this was not always the case as activities inevitably kicked up the pace of life. We weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but our parents somehow figured out (even if by trial and error) how to teach us the value of our faith and family life.
We weren’t deprived. We played four square, rode bikes in aimless circles, watched our share of Disney movies and had sleep overs with the neighborhood kids. Dad was able to fly us to Europe multiple times because of frequent flyer miles. But our identity came from our home life. I look back and realize this was their way of keeping us all together in a world that can easily, and unintentionally, pull families apart with things that distract from our ultimate purpose.
Community is so important, but our children need us just as much. It is empowering for us as parents to realize our children love us just as we are, they just want our time. We are enough for them! As my husband and I raise our children, we feel ourselves being pulled off the ground by so many worthy invitations to be involved in activities. But somewhere deep inside there is this persistent truth that wells up and grounds me, reminding me that our time together is the most precious commodity we have. What we teach our children today about cultivating an inner life and owning their family identity will remain with them always. And if they grow up and willingly come back to see us at Thanksgiving, we can congratulate ourselves then on a job well done.
I may never defeat the time-eating Monster, nor perhaps should I. What I hope to do instead is keep him at bay and in the process, teach our kids how to be their own time guardians one day.