Reclaiming family Sabbath time
Now that my son has begun high school, I notice how much less ownership of his time I truly have. My husband and I continue our vital role of parenting him to be a kind, loving, faith-centered young man. And thankfully, he still appreciates hanging out with us. But sometimes, it feels like we’re dueling a growing number of competitors for his time and attention than even just a year ago.
Tasks like homework take many more hours to complete. Video games and smart phones we’re discovering make our brains crave even more screen time. There’s the burgeoning social life that ramps up as teens begin driving. And specific to our family, the added conflict of soccer games scheduled for Sunday mornings, invading the most sacrosanct time of the week.
Living in what is reportedly the least religious state in America presents challenges for the Christian faithful. There is decreasing awareness of Sundays as a day of Sabbath. (The word “Sabbath,” from the Hebrew word “Shabbat,” literally means “to cease” or “to rest.”) Sometimes it can feel like the Lord’s Day is on a par with every other day of the week.
I think back to the Sundays of my youth when the rhythms of life were vastly different. Stores and shopping malls were shuttered. We would go to the same Mass on Sundays; take a family drive together while a leg of lamb roasted in the oven; and then welcome my grandparents for a protracted family meal. Everyone would linger at the dinner table in extended conversation.
The only technology that might distract the five of us children was a TV and landline phone that we took turns to use.
Lest I sound older than the middle-aged mother I am — or like I am pining for a return to the past — I assure you that is not the case! But, I have begun to think about how to be intentional about honoring Sabbath time for modern-day families like mine. For our “tribe of three,” it’s unrealistic to envision a complete relinquishment from life for 24 hours per week like Orthodox Jews do (though I deeply admire their commitment to claim sacred space for personal renewal and strengthening the bonds of family).
In some ways, it feels like a radical act to claim time and space for oneself and one’s family and to disconnect from our well-worn routines. Noticing that my husband, son and I seemed weary at the end of harried work and school weeks, I began introducing Sabbath time on Friday evenings. We agree to turn off phones and screens except maybe an inspiring movie to watch together. The evenings are focused around a special meal — either home-cooked or takeout — but something out of the ordinary so as to make the evening a celebratory occasion.
My son cringes a bit when I light candles and facilitate a longer-than-usual meal blessing where we each share gratitude for something new in our lives. Rather seamlessly, we three are beginning to relax into this uninterrupted “time-out” each week. Nowhere to go, nothing to accomplish or produce, just time to invest in our most important relationships and to reorient our souls to what we cherish most.
— Marybeth Christie Redmond
— Originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.