By Teresa Thomas
Yesterday, I was driving around in the car for three hours. First, at 3 p.m. I picked up a high school daughter from school. We dropped her little sister off at ballet, then quickly pulled into our own driveway so she could grab some food and her own dance clothes for class. A text from the other high schooler as I sat in the car let me know that her drama rehearsal at school was over, so I quickly headed in that direction and picked her up, home just in time for the first high schooler to jump in the car with her ballet bag, schoolbooks and snack. We headed to pick up her friend (thank goodness carpool would save me from another trip to the dance studio at 9 p.m.), then back to ballet.. The youngest girl was finished with her class so she jumped in while her sister jumped out. By now it was 5:40 and I realized since my husband was out of town on business (he usually helps out on grocery runs) I’d not had a chance to fill the fridge. I needed to stop at the store. By the time I got home from there, it was approaching 7 p.m. I offered a fast meal to my kids. I knew I had more laundry to do, and there was some laundry that needed to be put away, but I was wiped out. Does this sound familiar?
There is no virtue in simply being busy! Let me say it again- there is no virtue in simply rushing around engaged in an activity. Sometimes we need to pull back and reconsider what activities are healthy for our families. However, sometimes we will find that the busyness we experience is not overdone, but rather merely a byproduct of a family life which is open to children. In that case, we are to accept our lot and find ways to cope.
One of the best ways to make good use of time in the car is to use it for conversation. Think about it, when you have a child in the car, he/she can’t get away from you. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on what’s new in his or her life, see what’s on his/her mind, or impart wisdom or wit if you so choose. It’s also not a bad time to download a TED Talk or other motivational lecture if the time allows. You can sing songs with little kids, giving them a rich vocabulary of nursery rhymes and silly camp songs from your youth.
Give your kids something to think about if you have to drive dully through town. Some parents put in Spanish or French audio CDs for their kids to listen to as they travel. It’s also a good time to introduce your children to classical or soft religious music (chant?), which can be calming, or even an educational tape on the state capitals or discussion on a religious topic. Studies have shown that teens who talk to their parents about sex are less likely to have sex at an early age. Why not take advantage of car time to talk about this important topic, and take things one step further by discussing Church teaching and the Catholic faith? Talk about saints! My girls can recite the story of St. Margaret of Scotland and choice quotes from an old book I own because I’ve recounted her exciting story of civilizing Scotland so many times. Tell a parable. Talk about the Gospels. Recite a favorite poem or quote. My own children have a large pool of Mother Teresa quotes from which to pull because I would rattle them off now and then when I cornered them in the car. Time in the car you will never ever have back again. Use it!
Even though you are busy doing important things, raising a family, take time to recharge and relax regularly. You will be a better parent and spouse for doing this. How to relax? Take a hot bath. Take a deep breath. Take a long walk. Exercise will clear your mind and fill your lungs. And while you are out there taking a walk, look, really look at the sky that the Master Artist has provided for your enjoyment. Look at the symmetry of the flowers, even small wild daisies or blossoms on weeds. See the order of the One who made them. Breathe deeply. Step lively. Realize the God who created the universe also believed the world would be better with one of you. Amazing, isn’t it?
You may feel inclined to pray while on your walk outdoors. Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God. We pray to adore God,to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness, and to ask for all the graces we need, whether for soul or body. Pray for all these reasons!
Most people think about the request portion of prayer but neglect to say it for its other purposes. While walking, make a mental list of the good things in your life at that time. You can even softly speak out loud those things for which you are particularly grateful for that moment.
Thank you, God, that I had a good night’s rest and woke feeling refreshed. Thank you that this day is bright and sunny, and for the fresh smell of cut grass I detect as I walk. Thank you for my husband/wife, the understanding he/she showed me this morning over this or that, and so on and so forth…
Every little thing you see you can thank God for. When you look, really look, at the beautiful world around you, you will be amazed at the order and symmetry and beauty of the world. This will refresh you, and you will be more relaxed and better able to go back to your vocation and perform it well.
Busyness can take over our time, but it can also be controlled. Be efficient and make use of time in the car, for example, so your busyness will serve you, not the other way around. And even while you are busy, take time to carve out some peace and prayer. In doing so, you will find the secret to peace and joy. You will find God in the busy world.
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