Being an unoccupied parent

Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. — Henri Nouwen

I was given this piece of advice around the time our second son was born, and it has been the source of more good than I could possibly express in words. David, who was a father and grandfather, said to me something like this:

Make sure your home life has structure, order, consistency. But also make sure your kids have enough unstructured time, and be sure to always plan in ‘down time’ in your home life when you’re just available, when your children know you’re free and interested to play or talk or do something spontaneous with them. A time when you don’t bark out orders.

If everything is planned and structured, the parts are always moving, you’re always getting on to the next thing, always efficient or keeping them busy, you’ll miss out on what can only be had in those unstructured moments. Freedom for creativity, imagination. Without this, your influence over the deeper parts of their inner worlds will be shallow.

Kids spell love T-I-M-E and P-L-A-Y. These mean, I’m interested in you, I love being with you. Disconnect from your preoccupations, open the door, let in the uncontrolled air and the bugs and other messy things.

2 comments on “Being an unoccupied parent

  1. Nos says:

    Holy moly I guess I’m going to have to do away with my preoccupations my occupations and my post occupations to accommodate my daughter and her two horses, her four dogs ,her twelve cats ,her twenty five chickens and last but certainly not least her Nigerian pygmy female goat. Not to mentioned my other five brats ,,, I mean beautiful kids , and my nine awesome grandbabies,,, hey wait come to think of it they are my pre ,present,and post occupations joyful CHRIST MASS to all and a prayerful New year to all ,that means you too “small scale -j-” Thomas thank you for this always uplifting space the GREAT GOD provides for you to up lift this lowly unworthy hobo you know as nos any so many many more P.B.W.Y.A.A.

    • Haha!!! Yes, we know you as the man who is always ready to set down his occupations to spend time with someone who needs to talk, wants to learn from you (Pope Nick), and who always is ready with quick Boston wit and a warm smile. God bless your family this season, NOS!! The Neals love you

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