I wanted to share a word of encouragement this morning, but I didn’t have anything specifically planned. This book stood out to me on the bookshelf over my desk so I pulled it down. I had apparently tucked the back of the dust jacket into this question at some time in the past. And so here we are with this timely word for many of us.
From Common Sense Christian Living by Edith Schaeffer, pages 132-133
You said that continuity in our relationships requires verbalizing, yet our society pushes us off in a hundred different directions. How can we cultivate better communication in our homes?
Finding time for communication in the midst of a very heavy schedule is difficult. I would say that the only time I have found for valuable communication with each of the members of my family has been when it has been inconvenient!
If you are not willing to stop and take the inconvenient moment, you are not going to have any real communication. A phone call comes when you are just ready to turn out the light and go to sleep, or when you are halfway out the front door. The person on the other end of the line is your child, your grandchild, your sister, or your parent, who will take your time, but whose conversation is a special continuation of your close friendship.
You realize that at least a few minutes are essential. To cut the time off would be to lose something precious, not just for the moment, but for the reassurance your attention is giving that other family member that you really care. Naturally, if you are a surgeon running to do an emergency operation, you say so, and your son or daughter will understand as you say, “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” It is the pattern that is important, and the exceptions are then easily accepted. If, however, everything else always comes first, your children will feel they are always last in being considered important.
You are just in the midst of writing a chapter of a book, and one of your children comes in and sits on a chair and says, “I have something I need to talk to you about.” My feeling is that there is no use writing about life, in any area of living, unless you are willing to stop writing and live. Being available at an inconvenient time is part of really living as a mother, a father, a family member.
Your child begins to talk to you after you’ve read a story and you are tucking him into bed. Your mind is outlining what you will do next: I’ll do the dishes now… then I’ll do this and that the the other, and so on… But your child is opening up with a question important to him or her or is about to confide some special thing to you. This moment is not going to come at another time. If you slam the door on this particular use of the next half hour, you are finished with whatever this close moment was going to consist of. That specific time is never to be repeated.
Learn to stop your brain and actions to ask yourself a question: What’s more important: my relationship with this child or getting the child in bed at the right time? You answer the question by telling yourself: Stay. Do the dishes later.
Naturally, there are myriad examples of inconvenient times for shared confidences or precious discussions of ideas or accounts of projects that have been completed. Inconvenience is the shared ingredient of a variety of pieces of time.
A very important subject. Taking the time and it does start from the earliest ages.
My wife and I made it known to all 4 of our children that we were available for help 24/7. It didn’t matte where or what time it was…if you needed help PHONE. It turned out that they did and it wasn’t always easy responding to them. But when we received those calls (and there weren’t many) the inconvenience was nothing to the relief and peace of mind to know they were home safe and sound. We have a very solid relationship with them but they don’t or won’t tell us everything. Our option was to lay out our expectations (main ones) for every situation they were moving into i.e. when my son got his car at 17. Or when my daughter entered into later years of high school (boyfriends, etc.) If they know in advance the big issues they could have with us they usually avoided them. If not we would let them know excuses do not cut it and we would take appropriate and proportional action (which is not easy). We were also ready not to sweat the small stuff. Sharing our own experiences with our parents also helped. This is the learning curve we started with and is still in place to this day. The boys (33,32,31) are a positive reinforcer for our 19yr. old daughter who is stepping into her adulthood. The 4 of them can speak to each other now as having a common background.
It is lovely that your daughter has three older brothers. What a blessing for her!
We’ve picked our hills to die on very carefully every step of the way and made our expectations clear when necessary. We’ve also invested so much time and energy into our family relationships. So far we have been very blessed. I trust God to keep us moving in that direction.
Good to hear from you. I apologize it took me so long to respond.
Such a good, practical truth, Sallie. And agreed, these times are almost always inconvenient, but so necessary as we allow the interruption from whatever is happening in life, because this IS the real life. Relationship has to always trump convenience. Thank you for these important and encouraging words. Such a needed reminder.
It’s good to hear from you! I’m glad others were encouraged by these words as well. We all need encouragement every day in this parenting journey.