Life moves fast. Our kids, on the other hand, live life slower. There always seems to be somewhere that we should be already and simultaneously, there’s a flower or puddle that one of our children inconveniently needs to stop and explore. So how do we as parents, living with both our ever-present to-do-lists and responsibilities, and our innocent, curious children, find time for both?
Seeing Beautiful Things as Beautiful Again
‘Sorry we can’t do that now, we’re running late today.’ ‘Come on, let’s be real quick like a cheetah!’ ‘Who’ll get there first, you or mummy / daddy?’
In today’s society, it’s a hard truth that life, for most of us, moves fast. Our kids, on the other hand, live life slower. This means that there always seems to be somewhere that we should be already and simultaneously, there’s a flower or puddle that one of our children inconveniently needs to stop and explore.
So how do we as parents, living with both our ever-present to-do-lists and responsibilities, and our innocent, curious children, find time for both?
For me the simple answer, although it has taken many hours of reflection to reach, is we don’t. We don’t try and rush them along, or patiently grit our teeth as we wait for them. Neither of those are workable solutions on a continuous basis. We don’t try to fit it all in.
It’s important to acknowledge that life is busy. There are so many responsibilities that eat up our time. Sometimes there are multiple tasks vying for our attention, as well as another list of things waiting for us.
But there is a choice: a choice to be calm and present in our day-to-day life. Outside of work and major responsibilities, each day of ours can be compared to a blank canvas. We personally decide to fill that canvas up with all the beautiful colours that make up our days, and therefore it’s up to us to take responsibility for what we decide to schedule into our life.
For the most part, the activities that make up the hours and days of our week are within our own realm of control. Are there too many things that we add to our timetable unnecessarily? There are subtle choices where we may prioritise certain opportunities over peace and solitude/family time, which impacts the overall ‘busy-ness’ of our week.
Sometimes, it’s so easy to get caught up in filling up all that empty space in our day. There’s a huge external positive association with being ‘busy’ and ‘short on time’. How common is it to ask someone how they are, and hear how hectic their week has been? How often do we run through unending task lists in our minds? On the other hand, we know it’s not mentally healthy for us to feel constantly like we’re catching up, it’s not natural to be exhausted all the time.
In Islam, we’re gently guided to a different focus. In the Qur’an, we’re reminded to pause and reflect throughout our days.
“And on the earth are signs for those who have faith with certainty. And also in yourselves.. [51:20-21]
Do they not contemplate the realm of the heavens and earth and all that Allah has created? [7:185]
Those who remember Allāh while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly..” [3:191]
These Verses tell us that there is incredible value in being able to take a break and think; about Allah, the beauty that surrounds us, ourselves, our goals, our strengths and slips. This cannot happen if we don’t give ourselves space in our day, to just be.
A really beautiful part of having children is that we are forced to slow down. To assess what would happen if we didn’t show up to that birthday party on time, or if the children made it to one less activity in the week, or if we never made it to one of our own friend’s get-togethers.
If we chose these decisions consciously in advance, our lives would be less hectic. Could our week still be as fulfilling? Would we enjoy that extra time, headspace and peace? What would we do with it?
To end, here are a couple of practical tips to free up our minds, and days:
Writing down (preferably in a timetable) what your normal week looks like. Include all work, drop offs, pick-ups, prayer times, meal times, bed times, hobbies, sports and anything else you invest time into each week.
Then, take a breath and look at what you’ve written. What do you feel when you look at the week? Are they all necessary responsibilities? Which part of the schedule brings you joy? Which sections allow you to grow? (These are the things you will want to keep).
Next, ask yourself, where are the empty spaces of time, and what can you do to create more of these empty pockets? Is there anything you would like to drop/ cancel?
Check in with Allah
Use the times the kids stop moving or are slowing you down as an opportunity to have a conversation with Allah.
Maybe, He calls us back to Him through these little moments; through the times where He forces us to stop and break our routine. Maybe He stops us because He wants us to talk to Him, because it’s been a while.
This shift in mindset that we can have, should we choose to, is life-changing. It suddenly means we have access to multiple mini check-ins with Allah throughout the day. Because of the kids, not despite them. It means less frustration and will stimulate little seeds of gratitude and humbleness to grow in our souls.
It also allows time to seek Allah’s Grace and Help as we turn to Him to ask for success, for our day to go smoothly and to keep us close to Him throughout.
The next time one of the children stops at an inconvenient time, let’s take advantage of the reminder to slow down and appreciate all the love and beauty that we’re surrounded by, even as adults.
Let’s stop and admire the beauty of life through a child’s perspective. The excuse of not having time is no longer valid through their eyes. Being too busy is not a good enough reason to walk past a simple but stunning creation of Allah without reflection and awe, or to bypass an incredible moment of potential joy and laughter.
Let’s allow them to take us by the hand and remind us how to see beautiful things as beautiful again.