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    Against the Rush

    December 4, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    My personal protest against busyness began in graduate school. I remember contentedly writing in my daily planner, filling up every little slot of time. I felt so productive. Important? Maybe that, too. I did schedule in time to do relational things–dates with Si, Friday nights with my roommates, etc. But each slot was filled.

    Assigned.

    Designated.

    Let’s call it the preplanned, prepackaged life, where everything is foreordained {even if you’re an Arminian} by your daily planner.

    I had a professor that was really into the Spiritual Formation Movement. He was also a bit of an existentialist. One day, he attacked daily planners and all that they signified as an idea with such ferocity, that I felt compelled to throw mine in the garbage.

    And so I did. With great relief, might I add.

    I have never had a real, filled up and compartmentalized, daily planner since then. Oh, sure, there is a calendar on our wall in our kitchen. And it has things written on it. And there is also a printout that explains the rhythm of our days. But that is, for me, somehow very different from a planner that I lug everywhere, that I aim to fill up with “important” things to do.

    For me, a planner was something I was a slave to. A rhythm? Well, that is something sweet, for it means that we do not have to wake up and plan. Just like a musical rhythm, it is the beat of the song of our house, to which all of us dance along, playing our separate parts.

    The interesting change when I threw away the planner was that I no longer felt rushed. I didn’t plan more appointments in a day than I could remember because I didn’t have a place to write them all down and I didn’t want to neglect any commitments. This then resulted in long stretches of time that were free. Which has now resultes in long stretches of time spent reading to my children, reading near my children, taking walks with the children, reading with or to or near Si, cooking in a leisurely manner, and so on an so forth.

    The days are full, but they are not hurried.

    Today I was thinking about the impact of such a life on my children. For one moment today, I felt a sense of rushing, coupled with annoyance. This is because while the children were outside playing, the toddler kept coming back inside. She needed a jacket. She needed to go to the bathroom. She needed to show me a rock. She thought that maybe she needed to go to the bathroom again.

    The final time, I felt annoyed. This was not because she kept coming in and out, but because of The Boots. The Boots must be taken off each time she comes in, and then I must help her put them on each time she goes out. She knows how to take them off herself, but she does this s-l-o-w-l-y.

    The important thing is that I noticed that the second I felt the rush, the sense of urgency or impatience, I wanted to take her boots off for her.

    It was then that I realized another important connection between leisure and learning, something I’ve been thinking about through my reading of Poetic Knowledge.

    Leisure and learning are synergistic from very early on, but I just recognized the fact today.

    When I think of my busiest day, I cannot ignore that it involves a lot more work on my part. And this extra work is always me doing things for my children. I don’t mean this in a lazy, I-hate-working sort of way. I mean this in a we-don’t-have-time-for-this sort of way.

    For instance, on a busy day I will take my toddler to the bathroom. I will dress her. I will clean up the messy toys. I will put on her socks and her shoes. I will wash her hands for her. I will pick her up and put her in her carseat. I will pick her up and get her out of the car. I will pick her up and put her in her bed for nap. I will lift her out of bed and run her around to leave again.

    I will do all of these things even though she can do most of them for herself because I do them faster.

    I do them faster, more efficiently, and better, by the way, because I have had years of practice.

    Which brings me to my point.

    My daughter would not have the same years of practice if I always did these things for her, and if we were very busy people, which we are not, but if we were, I would be very, very tempted to always do them for her. This is because when I am busy, I hurry. When I hurry, I do not have time for little people to practice buttoning their jackets.

    Ahem.

    I see this as a very good argument against the socially acceptable family rush. It is admired, especially in suburbia, to chauffer children from event to event. Leisure time is often associated with laziness or sloth, and so it is scorned by the masses.

    However, if leisure enables learning, then it might be learning that is being scorned, whether or not this is subconscious. This, by the way, might explain part of why we have lots of very good ballerinas and soccer players that are, for the most part, very poor readers and thinkers.

    So, here I am, seeing another good reason to stand against the rush. Walking slowly allows my children to learn so many skills. It gives me time to instruct and help rather than do it in their stead.

    Time invested in learning and growing and living the vibrant life is well spent indeed.

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    5 Comments

  • Reply Brandy December 7, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Sorry I didn’t write you back sooner. Seems that Blogger has been losing comments for about 12 hours or so, and I thought to check, and here you were! 🙂

    I will admit right now that I am the wrong person to ask this question, in the sense that I have always had to supplement with formula. This means my babies naturally sleep through the night earlier. I can say, however, that a lightweight can make it overnight. Baby Q. sleeps about 10.5 hours, if you need a point of reference.

    Any other ladies have any ideas?

  • Reply Ellen December 6, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Glad I could help. That’s what the Body of Christ is there to do, make random observations and let the Spirit use those to teach each other. Hey, we’ve all gotta do our miniscule parts. =) And Seth showed some improvement on the finger foods thing today. Yeah! As a type A extrovert, the Lord has shown me so much through the enforced slowdown of SAHMism. Now, on to weaning… Got any ideas? Seth has been waking up once at night to eat since he was 2 months old. He is on the skinny side, and I had a pediatrician ask me to wake him up to give him an extra feeding at night when he started sleeping through around 6 months. Now, I really think he’s fine, and I’ve switched peds, but I may have a monster on my hands. David wants to start making him sleep through tomorrow night. Any ideas? Can he really make it 12 hours? Looking for something from someone who’s been there before.

  • Reply Brandy December 5, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Ellen,

    For some reason I was still thinking about your comment overnight. And then it dawned on me that somehow you helped me see one of my own blind spots. I suppose it is because your question is regarding your son. I often think it is the toddler who suffers most in a rush because she is the one who ends up not getting to do many things herself. My son is faster than I am at many things, so I don’t dare interrupt him.

    That is, except during our Catechism and Bible Study time. I just realized that I tend to feel…well, not rushed exactly. It is more this sense that everything should flow perfectly so that he doesn’t get confused. Because of this, I often look up all the verses and read it with him, even though he has recently proven to me that, given enough time, he can look them up himself.

    Today, I decided that I will make sure he looks up one verse each day. Now that I think about it, it seems like, at his age, it would be such a gift to learn to master finding things in his Bible…

  • Reply Brandy December 5, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Hello, Ellen. 🙂 I just checked out your blog to see how old Seth is. Nice place. 🙂 I see that he is just about the same age as Baby Q. She isn’t very good at finger foods yet, so we let her give herself some of the bites and then we give her the rest. Even if we don’t have something to do or someplace to be, we just figure a meal should last a reasonable amount of time and then be over. She is our second slow poke. Our first would just linger over her plate for hours if we let her!

    Being unrushed is great in general, but sometimes there really are times or days in life that are busy. As long as I am generally taking my time with the children, I don’t feel guilty if we have a day where I really must hurry the children around.

    This is a very personal thing, an area for wisdom, and I am sure every family looks differently, even amongst families striving for that valuable leisure time.

  • Reply Ellen December 5, 2007 at 12:38 am

    Bravo. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Seth is just now learning to pick up and swallow finger foods. I am so tempted to just keep feeding him baby food because it’s so much faster, and I have a very short time span before the next nap to go out and run errands. I’m not sure how to feed him in such a way that he learns how to feed himself, and I still get to run my errands before nap time. Any ideas? I’m thinking about making breakfast and dinner finger food times, but not lunch. =)

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