Happily Even After
The Campaign for Peace
by Josh Noem
Stacey has been on a crusade for peace in our house.
We recently returned from ten days visiting Stacey’s parents in Florida. It was a restful time, even though we stayed busy. We painted a hallway, attended a campus ministry conference, visited other family members and hosted Oscar’s birthday party. Through it all, though, we had a certain detachment and quiet connection—Stacey and I were on the same page throughout and we were able to have good connections with the children.
After returning, as soon as the first workweek began on Monday morning, a different tone and climate returned: back to the grind.
It was the return of the daily regimen that changed the mood. Up at 6:30, children ready, off to school and work, home, homework and violin practice, basketball practice, dinner, bath time, deep breath and maybe a movie, fall asleep reading. Throw in work appointments on campus in the evenings and weekend birthday parties, and we’re now hustling through our week instead of sipping Mai Tais by the pool.
In our conversations of late, Stacey has been good about holding on to the feeling of the time in Florida as a paradigm for the climate she wants to see in the house. The relaxing feeling we had on vacation really came down to connecting with one another in the present moment. On vacation, we were free to engage in whatever we were about at the time. We didn’t have to relentlessly track the clock to make sure we were on pace to get things done.
Being back in the grind at home means that the clock rules our days and nights. So, we are trying to find ways to create open space with one another in the midst of the schedule we need to maintain.
For example, Stacey has been intentional about interacting and relating to the kids during our family time at home. She’s been leaving work at work and using her time at home to only focus on being mom. Of course being a mom (or dad) means getting through certain tasks like making dinner and doing laundry—it isn’t all PlayDoh—but she’s making a concerted effort to connect with the kids and involve them in what she is doing. She brings out puzzles and games when she could be checking email or writing a shopping list.
I’m working on following her example. Now that Simon and Lucy are getting older, we can rely on them being able to take care of themselves more and more. They play by themselves, or together, and we don’t need to have them near our bodies at all times like we did when they were babies and toddlers. With the clock as a merciless taskmaster, it has been nice to have some space to be able to make dinner without someone hanging on my arm or trying to pull the flour bin to the floor (which happens).
The flipside has been that it is easier to let them spend time by themselves and to bury my head in house projects. I am admiring Stacey’s discipline in prioritizing leisure and playtime with the children, and I’m trying to balance that with the genuinely important work that simply has to get done in a day (i.e., we can’t go without dinner).
It is a work in progress. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to step outside of the routine with a vacation because it gives us the chance to see how the routine is shaping us. I’m also grateful to have a thoughtful wife who is proactive in shaping the climate of family life.
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