This time is forcing many of us to really slow down. Whether out of work, working from home or not in the professional world at all, many of us are in the thick of life and parenting from a decidedly new angle.
While I was catching up with a close friend this week — both of us stay-at-home moms at the moment — we had a chance to consider how this quarantine life is changing us and our kids.
Our families have grown in size together over the last seven years. Several of our children are mere weeks apart in age, and now — with ten kids between us — we’re no longer strangers to chaos and busyness in family life.
Except for one, all our school-aged children are homeschooled. Our regular schedules include co-ops and clubs and play dates precariously balanced with nap schedules, church, errands and a large allowance of at-home family time.
But suddenly there’s quarantine. Community events, social activities, family gatherings, travel and the luxury of grandparent babysitting are out.
Yet my friend finds joy and purpose in this. She’s learning to look at each child with new eyes and recognize not only when and why they’re out of control, but the signs of meltdowns ahead of time. She told me how this has been a gift for her to see what her individual children value so she has a chance to give them bigger responsibilities in the family according to their aptitudes and strengths.
But the biggest change seems to be how priorities shift when we’re no longer tied to a schedule and a host of time-sensitive missions for which we hustle all the children all the places. Without the schedule, it’s easier to include the children in conversations about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what it means. They’re not swallowed up in our objectives and they have time — time to wonder, time to ask, time to adjust.
We’ve seen how the family dynamic has changed in both our homes when there’s nowhere to go and we can tackle relational and character issues at eye level with our children instead of tight schedules offering us time only for a limited, top-down approach.
What if we could give our families the gift of a concerted effort to learn each unique individual in our home? Our children are not our clones; we don’t know them like we know ourselves and we don’t think the same way they do.
If our job as parents is to give them the best start in the world that we can, doesn’t that mean we will learn them — from their characters and personalities to their aptitudes and passions — and then offer our grown-up wisdom to guide them in right paths?
To me, that is what parenting with purpose means. And these uncertain times provide us a unique opportunity to dive into this project.
My first step is to look inward and ask myself who I am. What values make me unique? What qualities do I admire about myself and cultivate in my life? What strands of value have been woven through the tapestry of my journey in every phase and help me remember, even when times are dark, who I am beneath it all?
If I can identify all of those things, I have a great start. I ask the same questions of my spouse and together we articulate which values and virtues are on both lists and naturally fall into the realm of who we are as a family.
How we embody these values and virtues will look different. In my family, integrity and authenticity are both very strong values. To me, being authentic doesn’t interfere with wearing makeup, for example, but for others it might. Being authentic does mean living my values clearly and not being a yes-man even when I am tempted to or when it would be easier.
The important point is that I have articulated what I value and why and how I live that value. This is what I teach to my children. This is what I work to embody as honestly as I can whenever I interact with the world outside my home.
That day may not come again for some time, but in the meantime I have a noble purpose in instilling these values into my people at home. And the more I practice, the stronger and more deeply I will affect the characters of my kids and bless their futures with my love.