Jake Frost finds a new way to look at those day-to-day situations where parents need to choose among good alternatives.
There is a perennial perplexity of parenting: discerning the best course of action from among many good contenders.
Case in point, last night when I got home late from the last pick-up. We have five kids and there are lots of great activities they are involved in: cross country, volleyball, basketball, student council, space club, driver’s ed (our first! Yikes!), debate, etc.
Which is why we started our Snack Time at night. Before bed is the one time we can be sure everyone will be in the house to gather around the table to break bread (or popcorn) and talk. It’s great.
But it was late when I brought the last child home from the last activity, and the dishes still needed to be done.
Cleaning is good. Order is peace. To wake up the next morning with a clean kitchen and clear table and be able to make breakfast with pans to cook it in and dishes to serve it on is a wonderful thing.
But better than time with the family all together? With all of us getting together for Snack Time, hearing from the kids about their days and what was on their minds?
Not to mention the fun and hilarity—we’re blessed that our kids are all really funny.
So ... clean, or Snack Time?
Often, it depends. Sometimes you just got to get the dishes done. But if things can be reasonably tidied up in the morning, that evening time together as a family is valuable. And sometimes you’ve got to take it while you can; it won’t always be there (but dishes will!).
However you resolve the choice between good and better in any particular instance, it’s sure to come up again. These kinds of decisions are a constant dilemma in the parenting life.
Mow the yard, or help your daughter work on her volleyball serve?
Work the extra overtime hours for that bonus money that will be so nice come Christmas, or log off and go to watch your son’s cross-country meet?
On a free Saturday afternoon, take the baby out for a walk in the stroller, or stay in and read aloud to the other kids?
There’s good news and bad news about these dilemmas. The bad news is that there is no one system, trick, or life hack to once-and-for-all solve the conundrum forever after.
It’s one of the hardest things about parenting: deciding between the good stuff and the better stuff. The need to discern between the two never seems to go away. There just isn’t enough time to do everything, so choices have to be made. No matter how good some things are, they will have to remain undone to make way for the better.
But figuring out which is which can be tough!
The good news is that we aren’t alone in trying to discern. I heard a great insight from a priest with a new way of looking at the recurring problems of daily life that never seem to be solved completely.
He said to look at them as opportunities to grow in devotion.
Take it to God in prayer.
It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, just a quick turning to God with a simple prayer: “Dear Lord, please help me know what to do.”
All throughout the day as these questions come up, it can be a great way to deepen Daily Bread living, walking with God moment by moment and asking for His help discerning His will for what’s going on in our lives right now.
Copyright 2023 Jake Frost
About the Author
Jake Frost is a husband, father of five, attorney, and author of seven books, including the fantasy novel The Light of Caliburn (winner of an honorable mention from the Catholic Media Association), collections of humorous family stories ( Catholic Dad and Catholic Dad 2), poetry (most recently the award winning Wings Upon the Unseen Gust), and a children’s book he also illustrated, The Happy Jar.