The drive across town, and the lessons for parenting/life it brings.
During a remodel of our house, we moved into a rental house in another neighborhood to be out of the dust. This house is not far away, but to get there (traveling east and west) on the straightest path, one must cross the railroad tracks. And sometimes there is a train.
Yes, there are other ways to get to there from here or vice versa, but the easiest way involves the railroad tracks. Oh, there are 2 school zones, too.
There is one alternative route that involves some construction zones and only one school zone and it has a railroad bridge over it, taking the train out of the equation.
Another alternate route is closer into town and there are many more traffic lights and I’m pretty sure no school zones, and another railroad bridge that similarly makes the train not an issue.
I could go north or south between these routes and sometimes do depending on the lights, etc., and I so remember my dad when I was a kid riding with him to the hospital or office. He had a system. If a certain light was green way up ahead he knew (or at least he said he knew) that he could hit all the lights and make it to the office quicker by turning down one route, but if that light in the distance was red we went another route.
I haven’t come up with a system. Maybe I haven’t tried. Maybe I’m telling myself that there is no system and to try to come up with one is a waste of time. I sort of wing it on a day to day basis, trying to make the best decisions based on time of day and level of traffic and likelihood of trains and schoolchildren. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes it doesn’t.
What does any of this have to do with you as a parent? It means that sometimes you can’t get from point A to point B without encountering some obstacles. It means that some days there are the ‘trains’ of temper tantrums and the ‘school zones’ of kids learning to tie their shoes or eat by themselves. There’s the ‘construction zone’ of picking up the messes left behind from your previous trip to point B before piling in the van for yet another adventure. And this may not even be a car ride. It may just be getting a lesson taught or a room cleaned or a chore done or just trying to navigate a normal day of picking up/bathing/laundry/groceries/daycare dropoff and pickup/dinner/naps/birthday party planning/ad infinitum. The point is, each day is a trip across town, at least figuratively.
One of my favorite sayings is “Leave wide margins in your day”. If you’ve written from margin to margin in your day planner from top to bottom with no wiggle room for the ‘train’, you’re going to be very frustrated when those barriers start coming down right after you missed your chance to use another route. I see this in the office when parents schedule appointments at times close to when they need to pick up a child from school. Perhaps it’s our fault in scheduling, and I’m working on that, but in general, in my world, 2:30 means sometime before 3:00 hopefully. I won’t bore you with the reasons for this, but many of them start with ‘oh by the way’ or ‘would you mind’ or ‘since we’re here’.
A variation/improvement/addition to ‘wide margins’ is ‘surfing’ which I took from a marvelous old Christian writer Oswald Chambers: “The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it. Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things – tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight. We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. The saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it…”.
My wife exhibited this just yesterday. As aforementioned, we have moved out of our house to remodel it, but we were able to just sort of move furniture into other rooms and not have to put stuff in storage or anything…until now. She texted me yesterday with the news that we need to get PODS in the drive for our furniture. But instead of griping or a grumpy face on the text, she put a great quote from one of our favorite Christmas movies, Christmas Vacation, by Randy Quaid made while he is emptying the contents of the RV’s septic system into the storm drain. And then she suggested we could put Christmas lights on the PODS! What a great lady!
So…there are two lessons (at least) I want to get across from this ranting/rambling piece.
1) Leave wide margins in your day. Don’t overschedule and make things difficult. When it’s possible, leave enough time that (gasp!) you might have nothing to do for a few minutes or hours vs. having things timed down to the minute where a train will just wreck the whole day. Let a 3 year old pick out her own clothes, ask him if he’d like to shut the door or turn off the light or would he like you to do it..avoid the obvious areas of confrontation and problems. You know your kid. You know where their traffic lights and school zones are, and you know that sometimes there’s a train. Plan for it.
2) Learn to surf. So not only do you plan your day to have some downtime or train time, you learn to make the most of it. One commercial (which is advertising I don’t know what, but isn’t that true of the best commercials?) is the mom in the SUV/van with the kids in the automatic carwash as they all imagine monsoon rains and the brushes and pads come at them and they squeal with glee. She’s surfing. So maybe, when you have your kids with you and the train comes, or the school zone light is flashing, or someone pulls out in front of you, you can learn and teach from the situation. Counting railroad cars is interesting business for a while. Looking at the graffiti is sometimes fun. Guessing how long the train is, guessing where it’s going and what is being shipped. Discuss how school zones are there to keep kids safe if they something stupid like run out in the street in their exhilarated stated when they get out of school (since you all homeschool, you can discuss the evils of modern public education and how it’s nice that they don't have to be confined all day in a classroom learning revisionist history and new math and all sorts of subversive brainwash type stuff).
3) Above all, (that’s why I said ‘at least 2), enjoy life with children. You get in big trouble if you try to dump them on the side of the road, so you’re pretty much stuck with them and really, I know you wanted them sometime in the past. So enjoy them, it beats the alternative.