The other day I was driving to work when I got caught in a massive traffic jam courtesy of a construction project. I had told myself to remember not to come this way, but in the frantic struggle to get the kids ready and out the door to school on time, it slipped my mind. Now I was stuck—and annoyed.
Going nowhere fast, I started to look around to kill time. Suddenly, to my right, I noticed the beautiful sunlight reflecting off the Ohio River. I felt the warmth of the sun as it streamed through my window on this cold winter morning. After moving a few feet, I started looking at the homes to my left. Many of them were in horrible disrepair, suffering from years of neglect. Amidst those homes, though, were ones that had been restored. How elegant they looked with their period elements carefully brought back to life. Why hadn’t I seen these homes before?
Off to the side of the road, tucked between the rows of houses, I spied a billboard. I looked up to see the familiar face of one of our friars—Father Hilarion Kistner, OFM—smiling down on me. He was being featured on behalf of our archdiocese’s religious retirement fund.
Finally, traffic began moving and I was on my way. Later that evening I told my husband, Mark, about the houses and billboard I had seen on my morning commute.
“I can’t believe I never noticed them before,” I said. “I guess I was just going too fast.”
Going too fast. Oh, how true that is in my life! This past November it really hit home when my oldest child, Maddie, became a teenager. A teenager! But that can’t be. She was just born, and I’m not old enough to have a teenager yet.
I’m sure many of you can relate. How often do I say, “Not now,” to my kids when they want to tell me something? How many times do I swing through the drive-through to pick up dinner because it would be easier, we have too much to do or I just don’t have enough time to cook something? How many times do I wonder, Where did the time go?
Most of all, what have I been missing while I’m whizzing through life? Just as I didn’t notice all those things surrounding me until I was forced to stop because of traffic, what could I be seeing if I just slowed down or stopped for a while in my everyday life?
So I decided to do just that—slow down. As a working mom of four, I’m realistic that I’m not going to be able to completely convert my life overnight. There will still be extracurricular activities, conflicting game schedules, mornings such as the one I described above. But I can make some simple changes.
For one week, I decided to do the following 10 things. I’m inviting you and your family to also give it a try. My attempt was to make the items on this list realistic—and doable. They are also things that seem so obvious, but ones we don’t often put much thought into practicing.
Drive within the speed limit. The benefits of staying safe far outweigh getting someplace faster.
Say no to one play date, commitment, project or request.
Take five minutes—10 if you can get away with it—and just relax. Take an extra-long shower, retreat to your room and lie down for a few minutes after your spouse gets home or lock yourself in the bathroom. Yes, I have resorted to this to get away. I hear others have, too!
Make dinner and eat together as a family. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant meal. (My kids probably wouldn’t eat it anyway.) Make something easy. As a fun, added challenge, have everyone chew each bite of food five times before swallowing. After dinner is over, don’t let anyone run off. Stay at the table and talk, play a game, color, do a puzzle or make a craft.
Sit down and talk with your kids. Give each child his or her own special time. Ask how the day was and give your undivided attention. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Ask for help. Start a carpool for some of the kids’ activities.
Have a technology-free weekend. Turn off the cellphones, computers and video games. Focus on what’s right in front of you.
Stay home. Pick a weekend and camp out at home instead of running here and there.
Take five deep breaths. It’s amazing what a good, deep breath can do for your attitude.
With spring starting to arrive, go outside and either just sit and enjoy your surroundings or take a leisurely walk.
Who knows, these might even be simple enough that they’ll stick around.