Pope Francis Encourages Parents to “Waste Time with their Children”

The kids love it when we sit to watch their “shows.” Can’t remember what this one was about :)

Pope Francis, in a recent gathering of the Pontifical Council for the Family, “asked parents to ‘waste time’ with their children, so that they can realize that love is always free” (quote from this article). For those of us who spend a lot of time “wasting time” with our children, this statement is very encouraging! When we sit on the floor with our 3 year-old to assemble a puzzle, snuggle on the couch to read “The Yellow Tutu” for the twentieth time, or simply spend time singing songs to our newborn child, we are not accomplishing any specific purpose other than spending quality time with our children. I vividly remember my own mother sitting with me for hours on end in front of the record player, singing songs over and over again. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old, but I remember. In the eyes of some, this may be “wasting time” that could have been otherwise spent doing tasks that have a tangible outcome, but for our children, this time spent with mom or dad is priceless. I often tell other people that they are the only mother or father that their children will ever have – they are irreplaceable. While other people could take your place on the PTA or in the workplace, no one can take your place as mother or father of your children. As we so often hear, parents are the first face of Christ to their children, and this is a beautiful responsibility.

At the same time, Pope Francis’ words issue us with a challenge: to show our children that our love for them is free, unconditional, and unaffected by anything that they say or do. The Pope is challenging us to spend time with our children so that they can see that we love spending time with them just because they are who they are, and on some days more than on others, this can be difficult! I immediately thought of all of the times that I am checking my emails on my phone while “spending time” with my children, and how frustrating this must be for them.

Pope Francis’ words resonate with me especially today because we just returned from our first camping trip as a family. Actually, the girls and I tagged along on the Cub Scout campout, but it was still a great time for us. Despite a very cold night and some other discomforts, our children loved camping – my daughter woke up on Sunday and said, “That was the best, most funnest night ever!” (She must have forgotten that she basically cried throughout the entire night because she was freezing.) Camping provides many opportunities to “waste time” – literally, when we arrived at the campsite, the Scouts and their families were sitting on their chairs in a circle, some reading or drawing, some napping, some just sitting contentedly and “doing nothing.” Yes, there is a lot of hard work that goes into preparing for the trip, setting up the campsite, and cleaning up, but once all of this is done there is plenty of time just to be together. We took walks, played on a swinging vine that hung from a tree on our campsite, roasted S’Mores, and told silly jokes and scary stories. For our children, this was heaven!

So, go ahead and “waste” some time with your children today – you’ll be glad that you did. Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us!

  • Sarah

    What a beautiful post. I am reminded of a passage from a book I read in college. Nabokov’s autobiography _Speak, Memory_ has a beautiful passage where he talks about being a little boy, staring at a hexagonal tile pattern on a floor and seeing/imagining mathematical patterns. He says something to the effect of “parents, never tell your children to ‘hurry up’!” I think about that quote whenever my kids are “wasting time” and not moving fast enough for my taste. Who knows what their little brains and souls are contemplating!?!

    • Kat0427

      Thanks, Sarah! I tell my children to “hurry up” way too often…I actually have thought about non-verbal cues that I could use so that they don’t get tired of the sound of my voice!

      • Juris Mater

        It’s hard to strike the right balance, because poky kids really do need to exercise the self-discipline and consideration of moving forward/not keeping others waiting. I think the key is in not over-scheduling children so that the whole day isn’t “hurry up”.

        • Bethany

          Yes, to avoiding over scheduling! And yes to cherishing the little moments of dawdling when you can afford them!! We are usually the last to get in the car after preschool and its usually because I let my kids race laps around the sidewalk, look in the mulch for bugs, and “walk the rail” like a balance beam. It is one of the few times in our day where we don’t have to rush and I find the most peace during these times!

  • Juris Mater

    This is wonderful, Kat. Now that we have come out of the first year postpartum, my ongoing resolution is to be more present to my children, and this is a new way of thinking about that concept–”wasting” time with them… Although I think my schedule-oriented brain also needs me to actually, intentionally schedule time to “waste” with them! Imagine writing “waste time with kids” between 4:30 and 5pm on the calendar!!

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com/ Kellie

    JM, I think you are so right with the idea of not over-scheduling younger children! I also think that you are right w/r/t scheduling time to waste…or rather, time to have fun! Sadly, I can’t really enjoy myself and relax unless I know other things are done and it is time to relax.

  • Kat0427

    Agree wholeheartedly with all of these comments! The postpartum period is especially challenging, as are “busy” seasons in family life. I love the point about not over-scheduling.

    • MaryAlice

      I am starting to worry, though, that too many of the seasons are “busy” seasons of my family life. Back to school time is busy, the holidays are busy, the summer is busy, this year is busy because of a baby, that year is busy because of college applications and the next thing you know it is over and they are gone! Everyone I know is so, so busy. I think that JM is right about penciling in daily times to be free with the kids, but I think I also need to schedule in whole days, or weeks, when we have nothing after school, vacation days with nothing on the agenda, etc.

  • Katleen

    Honestly, this post made me feel like two cents.. Not because it isn’t true… it is all so true, but because I definitely fail in that department over and over. I am a “do” person, not a “be” person. I need to work on just “wasting time.” The phrase, “love is always free” really struck me. So many times I set punishments or rewards for things done or not done. I know this can be good for teaching the child virtue, but charity is the virtue in which all other virtues point. Good food for thought.


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