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Jake Frost ponders our need to invest time into parenting, rather than checking more things off the to-do list.

At Mass a couple weeks ago, our priest recounted an exchange he had with a brother priest from another country and another continent who was visiting America. His priestly confrere was bemused by what he perceived in our culture as almost an obsession with busyness, with lists and hurrying and always moving on to something else. The visiting priest observed: “In your culture, everyone has a watch. In mine we have time.”

When our priest told that story I immediately thought of parenting, because, while Father’s comments were percipient for many facets of life, that’s the season where I am now. And this season is busy!

I have lists.

I have watches.

Yes, more than one. There’s a watch on my wrist and one in my pocket in the shape of a phone. That one also has a bunch of alarms set to ring at strategic points throughout the day in order to steward me along through the schedule.

Plus it’s great for texting “to-do” items, so it’s like a watch and list rolled into one.

But while I’ve got watches aplenty, what raising kids needs is time.

Raising kids is like math. One thing builds on another. You have to learn your numbers and how to count to ten before you can tackle addition. You can’t jump straight into calculus.

Although, I guess the first step on the journey of calculus actually is learning to count to ten. So maybe we do jump straight into differential equations, if you step back and take the long view of the total march to mathematics mastery. Because the most complex formula ever scrawled on a dusty blackboard was built on the foundation of fingers and toes — count them up on each hand, then add in those piggly-wigglies on their way to market.

Remember that when you’re placing produce on the high-chair tray and asking, “How many apples are there?” you’re teaching calculus!


baby in high chair with apples on tray


It’s true. You are at that moment laying the foundations that might send a rocket ship to Jupiter one day.

The thing is, laying foundations for future castles in the sky, or NASA launch pads for missions to the stars, is hard work. It doesn’t come all at once.

It takes time.

There’s no quick fixes, no “life hacks,” no short-cut techno gizmos when it comes to nurturing a human soul and helping it to grow and flourish.

And kids have so much to learn so that they can flourish. Like how to treat others. How to respect themselves. What grit means. How to get a job done and do it right. Courage. Love. Generosity. Caring. Toughness. Gentleness. How to direct themselves and live without having to have someone riding herd over them each minute of the day. How to think for themselves. How to learn, and how to teach themselves. How to find their own interests and make their own fun. And a thousand other things that go into a happy, good life.

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Raising kids is like math. One thing builds on another. You have to learn your numbers and how to count to ten before you can tackle addition. You can’t jump straight into calculus. #catholicmom

Learning all those things involves innumerable lessons small and large that come in a word here, a hug there, a silly conversation, an observed example, a memory suddenly recalled that we share with our kids. And all those lessons build on each other to lay a foundation for our children’s future.

That doesn’t mean there’s likely to be an end to lists and hectic schedules any time soon. There are still things we have to get done. The laundry won’t do itself.

But then, the kids won’t raise themselves, either. So amid the busyness, amid the checking of watches and phones and the ringing of alarms, it’s good to remember the value of time and work that into the equation, too. Because when you step back for the long view, our real goal is to lay the foundations for the launch into Heaven.


family playing baseball in the yard

Copyright 2021 Jake Frost
Images: Canva Pro