Transition and Cushion

One Monday night a month, I gather all my energy to corral the chaos of my house by 6 so that I can make it to my writer’s group by 6:30. I strive to have dinner at least in process, have some sort of food in my bag, milk pumped and in the fridge, children not screaming, and plans laid out for my husband’s next hour and a half.

This past Monday, I was not too successful. Every room was an explosion of stuff: dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, laundry piled high on the couch. The meal I was planning to make consisted of ingredients sitting out but not-yet-mixed, an oven heated but not yet cooking, and two little boys crying for food. My husband rides his bike home from work 30 minutes and had left the office early to make it in time for me to leave. He’s exhausted and sweaty when he gets home and needs a couple of minutes to change his clothes, gather himself and shift from employee to Daddy. He needs transition.

I was too chaotic to help in that front on Monday night. He arrived and I talked his ear off about the day for five minutes while I mixed my salad and packed my bag and reminded him about the milk and the food and the bedtimes and the need for baths and kissed my boys’ heads and kissed my husband and yelled “I love you people!” as I fluttered from the house, giddy.

I came home to a grumpy husband, who had faced a poop incident, a frustrating boy who didn’t want to go to sleep, a crying baby who is getting two teeth at the same time. Chris was out in the back yard picking up toys I’d carelessly allowed to be left in the grass. He was frustrated.

Last week I had a discussion with a friend who explained how she attempts to allow her four kids the Crazy from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, then calm them down, clean them up, and bring peace into the house by the time her husband comes home. Though her perspective of making home inviting for her husband is much more conservative than mine, I still felt a twinge of guilt.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t feel guilty because I believe my job is to be Donna Reed in my apron, stirring Mr. Hohorst a martini, roast in the oven, while I rub the difficult day at the office out of his feet, the children rosy faced and smiley on the floor staring up at him. I didn’t feel guilty because Chris’ job is so much harder than mine or because he does the “work” for the family. What I felt was an acknowledgement that space is important, that moving from one space to another is difficult and requires cushion.

As I’ve embraced the liturgy and begun to recognize our needs for times of celebration and ritual, for the acknowledgment of what is significant in our years and weeks and days, I’ve come to see that space is sacred. The physical helps us shape our reaction in the spiritual.

Though our culture may stress moving quickly from work to the gym to home to social activity, I’ve beginning to think that the healthy spiritual response to stress is to transition slowly between spaces, to build room into our routines for making that shift.

I mentioned last Friday that I had the opportunity to listen to my new friend Christine talk about how she has instilled ritual into her family’s daily, weekly and yearly life. One of the things I was most taken with is that she has begun to practice “afternoon tea” with her elementary and early middle school aged kids, acknowledging that the transition from school to home is difficult, and that kids sometimes need a calm snack and a little bit of family cushion before embarking into the world of homework and extracurricular activities.

Do you remember coming home after school? The warmth of entering into that sort of safety, after the uncertainty of learning, of negotiating friendships, of struggling to understand math? Because my childhood was healthy and sweet, my memories of entering into home are comforting. I ate cookies and drank milk. I sat on the couch.

Transition is spiritual work and as a spiritual leader in my family, I have a responsibility to offer that transition with as much grace as possible. So, as much as I may want to wag my mouth at Chris and talk about how frustrating this day has been. As much as I may want to yell to the sound of the door opening, “You’re home! Somebody do something about this child!” my responsibility is for Chris’ spiritual health. I want him to come into our family space with joy. So, I want to be a friend to him. I want to offer him the same sort of grace that God gives me: a moment for rest, for quietness, for renewal; a moment to take off the work clothes and all that they represent: every frustrating conversation, every stressful deadline, and allow him to walk into our chaos with a willingness to tickle and laugh and tell stories and correct with love.

And in order to offer sacred space, I must learn to offer grace. Not Donna Reed style, but Jesus style. Not by offering the roast but offering my rights, my selfish demands, my need to have my work justified. And in doing so, I may just create a home in which everybody else offers me grace as well.


Filed under Place and Stability

21 Responses to Transition and Cushion

  1. Joy

    This is so fantastic, M.M. Well said, I think all of us stay at home moms have felt this at some point and the transition is so hard sometimes! This happens in school, too. My oldest is having a hard time now bc/ his teacher has rough transitions. Thank you for this today, what a great way to start the morning.

  2. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I want to write YES all over this post.
    I can relate on so many levels. First of all, I do try to bring some order to the chaos before Kyle gets home, mostly because I have a good understanding of his temperament. He is an Introvert who has to play Extrovert at his job ALL DAY. By the time he walks in the door, he is spent. I am, on the other hand, an Extrovert who also processes everything externally. It takes a lot of intention on my part to hold back and, as the Zen masters say, let everything go as it goes.


    “As I’ve embraced the liturgy and begun to recognize our needs for times of celebration and ritual, for the acknowledgment of what is significant in our years and weeks and days, I’ve come to see that space is sacred. The physical helps us shape our reaction in the spiritual.”

    Awesome. Okay, I just erased a HUGE paragraph because I realized that it was turning into a blog post right here in the comments. I am going to follow-up on this at my own place.

    But thirdly - I LOVE the idea of afternoon tea! My mother always had a little treat prepared for us when we got home. I think of those moments right after school as pivotal shock absorption time. I need for my children to know when they get home, they are back in a safe place where they are loved and accepted and LIKED no matter what. I really, really want to set up something like this as ritual.

    Micha - this speaks to me on so many levels. Thank you for writing it.

    Speaking of which - I am SO JEALOUS of your writing group! I wish I could go!!!!

    • I love your super long comment! And I can’t wait to read your follow-up. Oh, and yes the writing group is amazing. Even more amazing is that it’s through my church. I’m so grateful to be in a church that so supports the arts. Thanks Megan!

  3. Danelle

    I love this. I do. And there is such a need for space and ritual and transition. Getting off the hamster wheel and fully living.
    I say “amen” my friend. To all of this.

  4. One thing that I’ve heard suggested, and *try* to implement in our home, is to allow my man 15 mins when he comes home — his time, for whatever he needs/wants, to transition home. Then, once he’s had his 15 minutes, it’s time for ME to take 15 mins, just for myself — to blow off steam, to have some quiet, whatever. That way we’ve created intentional time/space of transition: a cushion. And we can move together as a family into whatever comes next.

    I, too, really resonate with the idea of ritual, and the interaction between physical and spiritual space. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Micha,
    This post was so important for me to read today. Cushion is HUGE and even for me, an extrovert, needed. My husband, an introvert and pastor, needs it even more and with two small kids, similar ages to yours, it’s tough. Thank you for this. I’m interviewing for a part time teaching job today and feel like so many of the things you’ve been blogging about lately have been really helpful as I ponder this next step and what makes sense for us as a family right now.
    The other thing….for the first time, a year ago, when we moved and my husband was taking on a new job, we added in 3 weeks of cushion between jobs. That was so important. Life giving. More than we ever realized.
    Noticed on FB that you’re friends with my good friend, Amy Hanson. Small world!!
    Christine Gough

  6. Fantastic post. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to establish rhythms too. I found that living with rhythms and seasons infused with meaning (kairos time) was so much better than schedules and deadlines and productivity (chronos time). When I got married last year, I had to re-figure out how to do rhythms. How do they work with this other person who has a different personality and needs than me? And he had never really done much in the way of rhythms as a bachelor, so this was all new to him. A year or so into it, we are starting to figure it out - what each of us needs to feel centered and open and receptive instead of frazzled and frustrated. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing your stuff. I’m a new reader, and enjoying this blog very much.

  7. danielle b

    I so identify with this post. Just yesterday, when my husband came home (15 minutes later than usual) from work I exclaimed to him, “Finally! You’re home!” and practically threw our two-year-old at him before disappearing back into the kitchen to continue cooking dinner. It was not very gracious, to say the least.

    When my husband comes home I am so ready to hand my two children over to him. Without offering him that moment of rest. I’m sure, though, he’d appreciate a moment to transition, I know if the tables were turned I would!

    When I pick my two-year old up from preschool I try my hardest not to bombard him with questions about his morning. He seems to be an introvert and I think he enjoys the quiet 15 minute car ride home. It’s hard though! I’ve been trying to wait for lunch when we get home to talk with him about his day and I really do think it’s been helpful.

    I’ve been doing lots of thinking about our daily routines and rhythms of life lately land am really enjoying reading your thoughts!

  8. Marisa

    I loved this post SO MUCH!! Thank you for making sense of some of our evening chaos… I love the idea of transition being a spiritual as well as a physical reality. I know for my two year old a good transition can be the difference between an incredible and peaceful day or a screaming grumpy day but somehow never thought about how we as adults need this too. I have always wondered why my usually happy and easy going husband can be so grumpy on those days I need him the most - the ones when he comes home to a half-cooked dinner, half-naked toddler, crying baby, and… well let’s just say I’m happy and cheerful! In my mind he has had a lovely child-free day, something that I often long for, and I have been cooped up with these wild animals!! (even if in reality the entire day was lovely except for the last hour… somehow that last hour can taint all my memories in those burning-dinner-clingy-baby moments) What on earth does he have to be grumpy about? I will be much more intentional about trying to create some sacred space, for all of us, at the end our days.

    • danielle b

      Hi Marissa :)

      Your post made me laugh because I often have this exact thought:

      “In my mind he has had a lovely child-free day, something that I often long for, and I have been cooped up with these wild animals!! (even if in reality the entire day was lovely except for the last hour… somehow that last hour can taint all my memories in those burning-dinner-clingy-baby moments)”

      How that last hour really does taint my view of the entire day! And my last hour sounds oh-so-similar to yours!

      The end of the day is just hard for everyone! Please share any success you have with creating this space at the end of the day. :)

      • I totally agree. My husband thinks I should write a post about what I imagine him doing all day at work. In my mind it’s something like drinking fancy espressos and laughing knowingly around desks and coming up with genius ideas and feeling completely productive and satisfied. I know that’s not true. (I’ve had a 9-5 job! I know it’s not easy!) But it seems so wonderful to converse with smart people all day, doesn’t it?

  9. What a great post, and so much of what I want my life to look like, for my husband, for my kids, and for me too. I love these ideas but I struggle with making my life look like this on a consistent basis. But maybe if I had a different mindset, especially to offer time as grace in the way Jesus would, it might change my actions as well.

  10. Lyndsey

    Do you think your friend Christine would be interested in writing a guest post about “how she has instilled ritual into her family’s daily, weekly and yearly life”? I want to hear more.

  11. Bethany

    As a teacher at a Christian boarding school, this speaks to me. Our students go home every other weekend, and the Mondays they come back are often miserable. It’s as though all the routine has been thrown out the window, and nothing seems to go right. Staying in our seats (or even near our desks and not on top of them) seems impossible. Actually accomplishing things? Dream on. And when I try to push through with MY schedule, it doesn’t work. Those days are not going to be smooth, no matter how much I’d like them to be. I’m learning that rather than forcing my schedule to work (which it won’t anyway) I have to be flexible. We try things differently. My students come from tough backgrounds, which I can’t even begin relate to. Mondays have to be about them, and where they are that day, not my list of objectives and workbook pages to complete. We have to transition, whatever that ends up looking like.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Bethany. I’ve never considered what that must be like for kids returning to boarding school after being home. But I know what a mess I am after visiting my family and returning to real life. So glad it hit home with you.

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