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Time is of the Essence: Waste it Together!

Posted : Feb-15-2024

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In preparation for the Family Day holiday weekend in Ontario, Catholic children’s author and illustrator, Carissa Douglas, reflects on strengthening faith and family bonds by giving importance to spending unstructured time together. Carissa is one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Dynamic Women of Faith Conference on March 23.

Holy Happy Mess

A few years ago, I awoke to a room full of strange, costumed figures circling my bed. A seven-year-old boy, six-year-old girl, and five-year-old boy/girl twins were balancing books on their heads. They were dancing around slowly, regally, while their thirteen-year-old sister, Mary, tapped her hands, singing out: “one two three, one two three ...”

It was during the time of Covid, and with the unexpected extra free time, Mary had decided to plan a royal ball and tea social for her siblings. Obviously, this required waltz dance lessons with an emphasis on proper posture. The group also received lessons in etiquette, such as: teacup lifting (pinkies up), royal waving, and the art of receiving compliments like a royal, meaning with a graceful nod of the head and a slight smile of acknowledgment.

Later in the week, the children compelled my husband to lead a bubble-popping session followed by kite flying.

A few days later, there was a coronation of four queens, a strange version of Snow White (that somehow involved Darth Vader), and a pretend Mass where the seven-year-old priest was sparring with his five-year-old deacon.

During the lockdown, our children had become especially creative in finding fun ways to enjoy their free time. My husband and I happily embraced the newfound freedom from our previously over-scheduled lives and allowed ourselves to simply be present to our family and to waste time together.

That time allowed our relationships to deepen and for memories to be made ... mostly good memories.

Pope Francis had once implored parents to “waste time” with their children. Although I saw the beauty of this simple yet sage advice, I kept thinking, it was much too hard to find the time to attend to all our daily tasks and numerous obligations. We didn’t have the luxury of added time to waste.

But after the experience of lockdowns, I realized that that time wasted together was a huge blessing to our family, and we decided that it was a gift worth fighting for. Even as the world opened up again, we felt compelled to carve out intentional time to waste with our children.

To this day, we try to set boundaries that allow for more family time, but it is not always easy. Admittedly, we often fail in giving primacy to that much-needed time together.

I keep thinking about the words Sister Lucia wrote to her bishop before her death:

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family.”

If the final battle is about marriage and the family, then I can understand why God would be keen on encouraging families to spend more time together. He knows that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is simply our presence. That time keeps us connected and strengthens us, and it primes our children to more readily receive the faith.

We’re being called to remove the rush, limit the obligations, and not to give into the profound social pressure to have our children enrolled in countless activities that often pull us out of the home. And this call is truly a divine mercy. 

Many of us find ourselves running on fumes and losing our focus.

Christ is slowing us down, removing distractions and calling us, as a family unit, to deepen our relationship with Him and with each other.

He’s calling us to play together, to enjoy non-rushed family meals and uninterrupted conversations. 

He wants us to pray together without the excuse of not having enough time. 

He’s encouraging us to embrace our role as primary educators of our children, but also to foster a spirit of joy in our approach, by playing and laughing with them. Family Day weekend might just be the perfect time to waste with your family. 

“And tell me, do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?... The free gift of a parent’s time is so important.” ~ Pope Francis