The Myth of Equal Time
- Monday, September 03, 2007
Once again I stood over my son, working with him for hours on a task that would have taken a mere 20 minutes for any of my other children. And once again, my daughter dutifully picked up her books, completed her work all on her own, and basically took care of herself. With a sideways glance, I saw her quietly withdrawing through the door while I poured my energies into my son. Just then my youngest skipped in and gingerly asked if now, maybe I might have time to enjoy that tea party we've been putting off for days. I sighed. Not now.
What was God thinking? Why would He put such a time consuming, labor absorbing, emotionally intense child in the same family as my other compliant, quiet and reserved children? It just wasn't fair. So often his siblings were overwhelmed by him, his needs, his intensity, his incessant desire for interaction. (Not to mention the amount of time they spent dodging the small desk supplies he would catapult at them by balancing them on the handle of a spoon and whacking the other end.) How can this be a good thing? And how can I possibly give them equal time when this intense child takes the lion's share of my parenting efforts? I'm often exhausted just getting him started on schooling in the morning.
This struggle to provide equal time to all my children was my constant companion for years. But my "aha" moment came when I attended my state's homeschool conference and observed a panel of moms with special needs kids. These moms had children with serious issues. Deafness, blindness, Spina Bifida. Their lives were far more full and challenging than my own. Doctor visits, diet restrictions, severe allergic reactions, nebulizers, wheelchairs and frequent injections were a part of their daily lives. But as I watched them, I sensed that these moms weren't living the frenzied life that reigned in my home. You could just tell by looking at them. Nor did they go about wearing the lovely guilt accessories I seemed to carry everywhere.
The microphone was passed around and finally there came the question that I had waited for. "How do you give equal time to your other children when this one child takes so much of your resources?"
Everyone's ears perked up, including my own. The woman who answered this question said two great things in response. First, she told us that question comes up every time there is a meeting such as this. (Whew! At least I'm not alone in this boat.) Second (my favorite part), she said "You don't. You don't give equal time to all your children. You can't. You have to let go of the notion. It's not realistic or" (get ready for this one) "even desirable."
You don't? What? It's not even desirable? I couldn't quite take it in. I had so fiercely held to this concept, assuming it was a sacred cow like looking both ways before crossing streets or never mixing laundry colors. I just took for granted that it was a noble goal and that everybody else must be achieving it. Since it wasn't occurring in my house, clearly I just needed to work harder. Just make it happen. Just don't get any sleep. But here were these women saying it isn't so. They were also saying that they were at peace with the concept. Not only at peace with it, as in "resigned to it"—they were really at peace with it, as in believing that it wasn't even desirable. It took awhile (quite awhile in fact ), but eventually I learned to unfold the truths that were buried deep in those words.
LETTING IT GO
For me it really became an act of faith. Does God know what He's doing? Can I truly trust that our family is by design and not by default? Can I honestly rely on the One who knew each family member before they were formed in their mother's womb and then selected them, one at a time, for membership in my family? I began with the assumption that I could. I could trust that God has plans for each of us that are for good, not evil. I could actually stretch out and recline back into the arms of that trust. With that as my premise, I began looking for the good that I knew had to be there—the good that I had been missing in my driven but misguided efforts to mete myself out in equal portions.
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