Never Too Old For A Time Out
This past January, my college sophomore, who was home on winter break, came to me and said she felt guilty because she was watching a show on television instead of working.
If you know me, you can understand why this experience hit me hard. As a parent, I often feel the tremendous weight of instilling a moral compass within in my children. I expect them to know and to love Jesus, to know and love others, to be full of grace, to be self-advocators, to have common sense, and to work hard and play hard.
But I am also wired to be busy. My brain is continually racing with things to be done and I am always rushing to keep up. The expectations I have placed upon myself to be the best wife, mom, daughter, employee, and volunteer do not leave space for much down time.
Despite my intentions to raise the best possible adults, I was concerned that I had instilled in them unrealistic expectations when it comes to work ethic. I wondered if I had failed to teach my kids an important lesson: how to enjoy life and find rest in knowing and loving Jesus.
Why is this such a hard thing to show our children?
I have a few theories on this. As parents, our relationship with our children begins as they are in a completely helpless state. Our very bond is based on providing for our child’s every need – while also juggling our own. This sets the wheels in a frantic state of motion to keep up that can continue long after the infant stage has ended.
Additionally, societal standards tell us that pushing is a part of parenting. Some parents believe that pushing their children is important so that they can get a good education and achieve success as an adult. Other parents believe the experience of a “happy childhood” is more important than achievement, but fear that their children may become unmotivated, self-satisfied, and not do anything with their lives if they don’t push at least a little.
But what about showing our children how to rest? In Luke Chapter 10, Jesus and his disciples are visiting Martha and Mary. Mary sits at Jesus’s feet, listening intently. Martha, on the other hand, is distracted by the many things on her to do list. She asks Jesus if he even cares that she’s working all alone. Martha demands that Jesus tell her sister to help out.
Many of us can relate to Martha, rushing around our homes and busy lives with our endless task list, wishing we had just a little help. However, Jesus does not instruct Mary to help. He says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).
Like Martha, we may have a long list of things that need our attention. Sometimes it feels like we’re only able to make space to rest when our to do list is complete. On the other hand, Jesus captured all Mary’s attention. She wasn’t making space for Jesus. She was making space for everything else.
I want my kids to be both Martha and Mary. Like Martha, I want them to have a strong work ethic and a desire to serve. Like Mary, I want them to have their priorities in order and feel the freedom to rest, even when their to do list isn’t finished. While I haven’t always known how to model the latter, I’m always learning. Here are some ways for you to demonstrate rest to your children.
Make Rest Routine
Even after they outgrow naptime, keep a period of time on the daily schedule for quiet and rest. This can be midday or after school, and the length and rules of quiet time may vary, but use this time to rest regardless of what is still left to do. You can also model for your children what good rest should look like during this time. Instead of flipping on the television, or scrolling on your phone, pick up your Bible or simply sit or lay and mediate, using the time to recharge and make space.
Say No So They Can Hear It
Much of what we do as adults for our children happens behind the curtain. Don’t only say no to requests that would interfere with your rest time or overpack but your schedule, but make sure your children know that you have said no. Explain to them that by being thoughtful about how much you can take on, you are creating good space in your life for other things.
Respect the Household Rules of Rest
It’s no secret that routine is important to child development and ensuring that they get the rest the need. The same is true for adults. Having a regular bedtime that you adhere to shows your children that you respect the value of rest.
Schedule Regular Sabbath Time
Create sporadic rest days on your calendar before the hustle and bustle of the month begins. As the rest of your calendar begins to fill, you’ll be grateful that these blocks of time were preserved in advance. Committing yourself to rest just as you commit yourself to other obligations shows your children it is equally, if not more so, important.
Ultimately, I do want my kids to have a strong moral compass to guide them through life. I do want them to know and love Jesus and to know and love others. I do want them to work hard… but I also want to show my kids a mom who is seeking Jesus with her whole heart. I remain a work in progress, but I’ll never cease trying to show my children that one of the best ways to please Jesus is to make room for rest.
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