The Myth of Balance
My kids and husband are out of school this week for winter break. In an attempt to get outside to hike and spend time with just our family, we spent two nights in Blue Ridge visiting my college roommate. The weather wouldn’t cooperate, so we didn’t end up hiking. We did, however, spend lots of un-exciting time together as our little nuclear family. We played card games and Pandemic. We ate out at restaurants, and shared pizza at Gini’s house in front of a crackling fire. I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X while the kids played Wii Tennis. Zay Zay chased away the cats and I took benedryl because I’m allergic.
Living our lives with an open-door policy means we spend lots of time with what we consider “extended family.” This includes actual family, who all live nearby, as well as neighbors and kids who stay with us for a while, just stop by for a meal, or for help uploading their new (inappropriate) music to Sound Cloud. Our kids learn constantly about de-centering ourselves. About going out of our way to offer someone a ride home, or about making sure to keep the change drawer in our minivan stocked with their allowance money in case our friends who dont have a home are on the corner when we leave the house. They share a bedroom so we can open our home to more kids who need a temporary place to stay. They are used to being in the minority in spaces, a valuable experience I wish I had at a younger age. We talk about hard things and they ask hard questions, particularly when we drive past billboards advertising “Free STD testing for the Chlamydia monster” (help, what do I say?!)
In theory, I suppose, we have some idea of balancing this pouring out with a certain level of circling up. Of ensuring our kids know we prioritize their needs and love them first. In reality, this looks less like a perfect balance and more like a pendulum swing. Days stolen away with our family on a small budget, going to grandma’s house and not always inviting all the boys to join us.
It means we spend a weekend here or there where they are the center of our attention. They also know, though, that they will never actually be the center of our world. We try our hardest to keep Jesus in that spot, the sun around which our world revolves and the light we reflect.
On my good days, I recognize that de-centering is actually the hard work we all need to do, and that parenting this way teaches our kids early and often the importance of this task. On other days, I get emails from people who think we are putting our kids at unnecessary risk and causing them undue anxiety. Or I get called a “f-ing cracker,” or recognize in the mirror the ways I have slipped back into the role of white savior and colonizer. Then I question everything, unearthing the ways we are not properly balancing family and ministry, work and life. But the pendulum swings slow and sometimes fast, we settle into the rhythm the Spirit carves for our days. Every day seeking His guidance for the ways we need to love our kids, each other, ourselves, and our neighbors in our community and across the globe.
What, today, do we need to de-center in order to shine His light more fully? What do we need to surrender in order to experience Him more deeply?