Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Susannah Wesley's Apron, Updated

A friend's Facebook status today: "A.H. would love some tips from other moms at my stage in life about how to maintain a realistic devotional time. ALL suggestions welcome!!!"

I figured the easiest place to give my two cents' worth (and it's only worth just about that, mind you) is always here, so here are my thoughts...

I always have had my toddler take two naps a day until he no longer needs them. (These usually fall mid-morning and mid-afternoon by the time he's a toddler and down to only two naps a day.)

Then, when he's ready for only one nap per day (as evidenced by difficulty getting him back to sleep for the second nap) he switches to "quiet play time" in his crib, bed, or room for the morning hours
, during what was usually the morning nap. This involves open shades, Classical music playing, and special toys or books selected by you or him and brought to his room for use during this hour. (You don't want him to fall asleep, but he's used to doing so at this time. Gradually work up to an hour if this is hard for him by adding a few minutes each day, but don't let him fall asleep!) The one nap for the day usually moves to an earlier hour than it was previously, beginning sometime after lunch but never past 3:00. (Later than that interferes too much with bedtime.)

When the child is no longer needing an afternoon nap (as evidenced by no longer sleeping during this time in spite of being left in there for over an hour), his former "quiet play time" in the morning becomes a quiet reading time (where he reads silently to himself, or looks at books if you haven't been teaching him to read) and the afternoon nap time becomes "quiet play time."

What this accomplishes until very late into the "mothering young ones (and possibly homeschooling older ones)" stage of life is that there is always at least an hour during which you have no children around you. When they're very young, they're napping morning and afternoon. When they get older, they're playing morning and napping afternoon. When they're a little older, they're reading morning and playing afternoon. Finally, when they're old enough to need some serious "uninterrupted school time with Mom," they're getting it in either the morning or the afternoon slot while their little siblings sleep/play. The "other slot" (where they're still reading and siblings are still sleeping or playing) is your devotional hour, whether you choose morning or afternoon.

Guard it with your life!

When they get older still (say, six or seven), they either go to school or they have some independent work during homeschool hours, and they know by now never to disturb Mom during her hour alone with the Lord. (It has been an established "given" in either the morning or afternoon as long as they can remember.)

Once the teaching load on you (if you're homeschooling) vamps up enough to crowd out the ability to jealously guard this hour (either because you have continued to have many children and are having a hard time giving each of them the individualized instructional time they need without tapping into that devotional hour, or because you have middle and high school students whose loads are now quite heavy and which therefore take more planning/grading time from you), you will be in your early-to-mid forties and your sleep will get hormonally messed up and you'll be able to have devotional time during whatever is the unique hour that your body decides it won't sleep even though it should be doing so. (I understand this varies from woman to woman, but it is pretty universal, from what I've seen. Enjoy your full nights' sleep now, while you can! ;)

Anyway, that's how I've made it work. I also make a point of reading instructive or spiritual non-fiction in front of my children from earliest ages, while they're playing or whatever. It is good for them to see you read, and it is good to keep that as another guarded-with-your-life discipline even as your days get busier when they get older.

I will mention that our days have never involved daytime television of any kind, and computer time is extremely limited. Kids will never choose to read if there's electronic activity (even "educational" gaming or television programming) available as the other option.

And, here's the kicker - same goes for you, too, Mom! Most women will usually not choose a devotional time or a time of reading challenging non-fiction if Facebook or email or surfing the Web are the other options. Make a deal with yourself that you can't get on the computer or turn on the television until you've had your devotional hour. Maybe this isn't an issue for you, but if it is, cut it out. It is a potential waster of huge amounts of time. Set yourself a timer like you likely do for your kids, and don't allow yourself anymore than thirty minutes a day or whatever.

If "electronic distraction" isn't an issue for you, figure out what is, and make a deal with yourself in that arena. If you can do this sort of thing without becoming legalistic, find whatever "motivation" works for you and don't let yourself have that thing (like a shower, or some other thing that is very important to you each day) until you've had your devotional hour. Usually, if you don't get dinner until it is done, you'll make it happen! ;)

In my experience, once it is an established habit (using this inferior motivation of deny-myself-the-thing-I-usually-make-sure-happens, until the devotions are done), the spiritual and emotional benefits you see in your life - and the fact that it has been planned for and committed to - are enough to keep the practice going.

If anyone else has any other thoughts or ideas, feel free to comment.

1 comment:

iivo said...

Excellent. You are a wonderful mom, wife, and person. I am privileged and blessed to know you.