I took my son out for a drive yesterday. Like many of your children and grandchildren, he’s stir-crazy. While we talked about virus topics for a few minutes, the bulk of the conversation centered on cars. Fast cars, old cars, muscle cars. My contributions to the conversation consisted of a few memorized factoids about the engine size and horsepower of the 1988 Chevy Caprice Classic (my unofficial first car). With my automotive knowledge exhausted, I spent the rest of the drive listening to my son pontificate about the virtues of high-octane gas and the reasons horsepower is a better indicator of a car’s performance than torque. As always, I had no idea what he was talking about, so I did my best to act informed. “Excellent point kid, tell me more.” Continuing our drive, we not only chatted about timing belts and transmissions, but we also explored important topics like good barbeque and the quirkiness of the electoral college. It all felt, well, normal.
We all crave a little normalcy in this alternate reality of COVID-19. Spending hours in a virtually empty office is not a normal afternoon in my world. Driving by church on Sunday morning and knowing that our gatherings must be “digitalized until further notice” is not normal for me, either. That said, talking pistons and gears with my son and scheduling a Thursday afternoon Monopoly game with all three kids (I’ll get destroyed) are welcomed slices of normalcy. Sipping my morning joe as I write is comfortable and familiar too. I am grateful for all of the above.
As fathers, one of the best things we can do for our children during unsettled times is cultivate a little bit of normalcy in their lives. This isn’t to say we should be cavalier about the trouble in the world since there’s plenty of it; claiming normalcy means grabbing hold of a few traditions and keeping them intact. Normalcy can offer those we love a soft landing when the news headlines do their best to knock us down for the count.
Begin with Routine
Where to begin? As school, extracurricular, and work schedules get upended by virus and threats of virus, I feel it’s important for every family to develop a daily calendar that balances school/work priorities to account for the sudden glut of time. In our home, for example, we continue to rise with the roosters to begin online classes and assignments. The kiddos may prefer to sleep until 9 am, but that doesn’t honor our shared commitment to learn and wisely use the time God has provided. While it’s become important to interject some movement and fresh air into this “shelter in place” daily routine, now is no time to view every tick on the clock as vacation time. When the school work is done, the “calendar” calls for chores, devotional time, exercise, and Zoom conversations with friends. As I use some of the time to catch-up on home projects and yardwork, I’m also “holding class” for my kids on the proper use of tools. We’re all learning something new. What about you? Have you created some stability in your home – some normalcy – by developing a daily schedule for your children? If not, do this as soon as possible.
Because we’re unable to interact in an embodied way at that this time, we’ve all turned to social media, email, and a host of video-conversation tools to keep us “connected.” I must say, I am inspired by the improvisation emanating from our homes during the COVID-19 crisis. When an eighty-year-old auntie from across the country invites you to FaceTime if you can “figure it out,” it’s clear that people are finding innovative ways to be close to those they love.
For the immediate family, however, an embrace of normalcy means being intentional about connecting in an embodied way. While the children must use their digital devices to stay abreast of educational expectations, it doesn’t mean they should retreat into the digital world. From board games to drives through town (see above), we’ve found that one bastion of normalcy in our family is continuing to do family things in an embodied way. While the weather is beautiful, we’re even enjoying dining outside under the oak trees. This nugget of Springtime normalcy is especially sublime this time around. As we ramp up digital connectivity out of necessity, we must do all that we can to ensure that our immediate families not lose sight of “flesh and blood” interaction. “Go analog” daily to make sure that this happens.
In our family, faith formation and worship are normal parts of our daily living. The problem is, we’ve been unable to gather with our church family on Wednesdays, Sundays, and special event days. This departure from normalcy has been jolting to say the least. We’re doubling-down on prayer and devotional time to fill this void, and we’re also engaging in remote worship and prayer circles with our church family. Anything you can do as a father to keep your children in communion with their Heavenly Father, is not just an effort toward normalcy, it’s a gift of life.
A Few Final Thoughts from the Word
Jesus claimed some normalcy amid all of the shifting demands of ministry. Remember the time he sat on Mary and Martha’s couch for conversation before supper? What about all the sidebar conversations with Peter? Or the routine of seeking a quiet place for prayer and meditation? Campfire breakfasts with the students? Normal, refreshing, essential!
The world is shifting beneath our feet, friends, there’s no denying it. Now, more than ever, it seems important to claim some normalcy. Develop a calendar. Brew your coffee. Read the Word and pray. Call the people you love. Set up a board game. Sit on your porch and enjoy Spring’s arrival. Help your family maintain the patterns and priorities that keep all connected and well.
Meanwhile, I suspect I’ll be learning much more about the benefits of a four-barrel carburetor for engine performance. Whatever that means.