Important family times happen in small moments

A Hispanic family (male adult, two female adults, female child, and male child) enjoy a meal at the dinner table.
A Hispanic family (male adult, two female adults, female child, and male child) enjoy a meal at the dinner table.

Parents of young children juggle the pressures of career and family life with varying degrees of success. Most will attempt to organize their lives in ways that pay attention to milestone events like birthdays, but I observe that parents often miss the fact that important times with kids generally happen in small moments and in small ways that can't actually be planned. A walk to the store or a bedtime conversation can mean more than an occasional and expensive birthday party.

I stumbled on this musing from Susan B. Anthony about life's high points: "Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit, and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."

There's wisdom here for parents. Nothing creates relationship like shared, unplanned time. This comes more as a result of attitude and lifestyle, and not so much by marking the calendar once in a while as a function of dutiful obligation.

This requires a point of view about what matters most of all, an attitude of compassionate regard for the people who populate our lives, empathy and constancy of attention. And these often are facilitated by thinking small, not big.

In more recent years I've been surprised to discover how much of the "small stuff" I had overlooked when I was younger. This is true in all my relationships, really, a matter of gaining a wider perspective of what's been right in front of me all along. And here I mean "small stuff" as a substantial component of what matters most.

Recall that our Christian faith was inspired by someone who led a rather small-scale life near to home while paying close attention to the people he encountered; caring for them, listening to them, speaking with them, walking along the road with them, eating with them. Yet from all this homely, small-scale activity arose a great revelation of where God was to be found.

Summer is as good a season for considering these matters as the others, or maybe a tad better, given the permission we give ourselves to rest and recreate. I hope that might be so for you.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman is the Senior Minister at Christ Church in New York, New York. You can read other posts by him at this website. This feature was published on July 16, 2018.