Carving Out the Moments that Matter
As I write this, we have mostly finished dinner and are waiting for Squeaker to be done eating so that we can start the bedtime process. But that leaves me about five minutes, depending on how deliberate Squeaker feels like being about finishing eating her scrambled eggs. So this is five minutes that can be used for writing this column (though it is possible I will be interrupted at some point).
We all live very busy lives, even the kids. They have school from 8 AM until 3 PM every day, and then they have afterschool activities until 4:45 PM. Michael and I walk the girls to school and then head to work, meeting up after work (on most days) to walk the girls home. When we get home, it’s time for me to prepare dinner while Michael helps the girls with whatever they need; recently this involves playing a card game with them or helping them find paper and markers or crayons for their art projects. On an ideal night, we all sit down to dinner by 6 PM so that we can start the bedtime process around 7 PM and have the girls asleep by 7:45 PM.
In the mornings, we get up early to get to school on time. We do have the fifteen minute walk to school during which we can have conversations with the girls; over the time the girls have been in Kindergarten, we have developed a schedule by which I leave around 7:20 with Muffin and Michael and Squeaker follow soon thereafter. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the sentence I say most often on school mornings is, “Muffin, come on; you need to get moving!” I feel bad having to rush her, but if she wants me to walk her to school, which she has made clear she does, we have to leave in time for me to get to work on time. And in the evenings, we want to get home before it gets too late so that dinner doesn’t start too late, thus pushing bedtime later. Again, I find myself rushing the girls through their evenings so that they get to bed in time to get enough sleep so that we can get up the next morning and start it all over again.
It all seems very rushed, five days a week. And it frequently feels like we don’t have the opportunity to connect with the girls, to find out what is going on with them. This is one advantage to our observance of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, every week. While, yes, we still have to get out of the house to go to synagogue or get out after lunch to go to a playdate we have organized, the day just by its very nature sets a slower pace, and so we have more opportunity to talk to the girls and play with them.
Sundays, as we’ve written about before, we tend to take the kids out somewhere that they can be entertained or occupied, depending on what is around for them to do. Sunday brings with it something of a paradox — we want to be less structured sometimes, because the girls have so much scheduled during the week that the unscheduled time is a relief. However, if we don’t have a schedule on Sunday we may find ourselves lagging behind at home, spending the day indoors instead of going out and taking advantage of nice weather when we have it or taking in some of the museums or other local attractions.
I’m not saying there’s an easy solution. But those moments that we can connect with the girls, be they during walks to or from an activity or a short trip to the park, the moments we take to ask them about what they learned in school or what they have on their minds, can be the most important part of both their days and ours.
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.
About this column: The adventures of two Brookline parents and their twin daughters, Muffin and Squeaker. Copyright 2014 by Michael and Nomi Burstein.