Parenting in Time

 The time we spend with our children is always leaving us.  How often with our busy lives do we take time to enjoy our children, no matter what age? To hold their hands when “out and about”  or hold them when watching television or on the side of a hill watching a local theater production? These are true moments of leisure.  


Parenting in Space and Time

Author’s Note: My 8-year-old thinks the title of this post sounds like a Dr. Who episode. Since I have never successfully watched a Dr. Who episode all the way through, and since what little I have seen of it always leaves me very confused, I can safely say that any resemblances between what I say here and the events, characters, and storylines of Dr. Who episodes are purely and completely coincidental.
Recently, we took a family trip to the beach. It was a public holiday, and my husband wanted to Do Something on his day off.
Family trips to the beach are good. They are also stressful, at least for me. And this particular trip was especially stressful. I didn’t have the day off work, so we decided I would meet the family on the beach after I had finished at the university for the day. After an intense set of philosophy lectures, with lots of work still to be done for my next lectures, I set off to find the family. My husband had decided to go to a beach that I had never visited, and I got lost getting there. After driving around for ages, I finally found them. But I was in no mood to be at the beach.

I sat down in a beach chair and tried to convince myself that the outing was a good idea. My youngest had just been in the water, and I noticed she was shivering. So I put a towel around her and hugged her while she sat on my lap to warm her up.
We just sat there, the two of us. I rested my cheek on her sandy hair, and she snuggled against my body. We watched the ocean and listened to the waves. As the time passed, I started to feel a closeness to this child that I hadn’t felt for a while. It felt good and relaxing, like I was returning to something important that I had left – a kind of quiet homecoming.
As I noticed that feeling, I also suddenly realized that I had spent very little time with her recently. Now, that seemed odd to me, because I am around her much of the time. But I as thought about it, I noted that although we had been around one another, I hadn’t really spent much time interacting with her. For instance, when I would make dinner, she would play in her room. When I would work on my lectures, she would watch TV. When I would help my older children with something, she would slip out to the backyard to play. The result was that I had actually seen very little of her lately, due to our very busy lives.
And now, just the simple act of sitting together was making a significant difference to our relationship. And yet, if I was to be more precise, it was more than the act of sitting together. It was more than the physical closeness that was strengthening our relationship. It was the act of sitting together for a period of time that was bringing us closer together. We didn’t have any distractions. I wasn’t on my phone, she wasn’t on an ipad. For a space of time, we were focused on each other.
Parenting and the Nature of Time
As I reflect on this experience, I am struck that there is something to learn here about the nature of time in relation to parenting. Of course, we’ve all heard the commonplace truth about how parents need to spend time with their kids. Yet, as a parent, I do not always feel that advice is helpful. You see, time is not my friend. I’m always rushing against the clock for something: school runs, deadlines, dinnertime, homework, sports, clubs, activities, etc. I feel like there’s not much I can do about my lack of time, but I berate myself just the same for not managing it better. From a parenting perspective, time is my constantly judgmental, constantly stingy companion.
Yet, if I turn to philosophy to think about the concept of time, there are some profound insights there that have enabled me to see my time challenges in a different light. In essence, time is a fundamental aspect of our human existence. This fact defines not only defines how we move, and how we think, it also defines how our relationships are formed. Time is the medium in which human beings build connections with each other. It therefore follows that parenting human beings will take time. The human condition is such that there is just no other way. Once these stark truths are digested, it seems quite beside the point to look at time as my enemy or my judge. It is, simply, my most important resource.

Philosophical Perspectives on Time, Space and Mind

Since the earliest days of philosophy, thinkers have always been fascinated with time. The study of time often goes hand in hand with a study of space and matter. Matter exists in space, and moves in space. Movement also takes place in time, so matter exists in, and is bound by, space and time. Since our bodies are material entities, we, as human beings, also exist in space and time.
However, as human beings, we consist of more than just our bodies. We also have our minds. Now, when philosophers talk about the mind, they do not mean the brain. They mean one’s thoughts, and one’s feelings and desires. The brain is thephysical entity that somehow facilitates thoughts and desires. The mind, however, is not physical. Our thoughts and desires themselves do not take up space.
Yet, although the mind is not physical, and therefore does not exist in space, it still exists in time. That is, our thoughts and desires do not take up space, but they dotake up time. According to the early Christian philosopher St. Augustine, our thoughts form a kind of trajectory through time, as we go from one thought to the next. We are at one moment ‘now willing, now not willing; now knowing, now not knowing, now remembering, now not remembering, now forgetting, now fearing, now daring, now advancing towards wisdom, now declining into folly.’
Giving Children Your Thoughts, and Your Time
Now, this all may sound rather abstract. But I would argue that the concept of our thoughts existing in time has some profound practical consequences, especially with regards to parenting. Consider this: our thoughts do not pertain solely to ourselves. Our thoughts happen within our minds, but they affect those around us. Our thoughts determine how we interact with others, both our physical interactions, and our mental interactions. And it is our interactions with others which create our relationships with them. Human relationships, then, are based upon countless sequences of thoughts, which always take place in time.
Understanding time in this way has, for me, made spending time with my children at once less pressured, but also, more profound. Since exchanges of thought take place in time, and family relationships are built upon those exchanges, then our time must be the most important thing we can give our children. Perhaps, really, it is the onlything we can give them. And if that is true, then surely the act of spending time together is just as important as what is done during that time together. This is what I mean by a less pressured approach to parenting. I’m learning to see my children more as creatures to be listened to, hugged, enjoyed and marveled at, rather than as creatures to be herded, pushed, chauffeured, and frustrated with. I’ve become more interested in bedtime stories, nature hikes, spontaneous conversations and ice cream trips, than in ballet lessons, regional orchestra auditions or GPA’s. I’m learning to worry less about getting through a ‘to-do’ list, and instead valuing the interaction in the moment, because I understand now that each moment really does count. Indeed, I am starting to see interacting in the moment as the ‘to-do’ list.
When I say giving our children our time, I mean our thoughtful time. We do not give them our time if we merely exist next to them physically, in space, without much mental interaction. I feel the need to point out the obvious fact that our generation faces special obstacles to achieving this. The constant access of online activity means that it has never been easier to disengage mentally with those around us. Yet, my experience is that spending time with our children really only occurs when we focus on them with our thoughts.
I’m reminded of the time several years ago when I went to a parent’s morning at my son’s preschool. Parents were invited to spend an hour or so with their children, doing whatever the child wanted to do. I still remember how excited my son was to show me around. We looked together at his work, and at his favorite dinosaur books. We did his favorite puzzles together. There were no distractions –there were no escape routes for me, either physically, or mentally. He was incandescently happy to have me as a captive audience, and his happiness filled me in a way that pushed out all my cares and worries. It was one of those moments of pure joy. And really, all I did was show up. It didn’t really matter what we did once I was there. The point is that I gave him my attention – that is, I gave him my mind, and that could only be done by giving him my time. The result was a happy child, and a happy mommy.

Parenting and Truths About Time, Space and the Human Condition

A few weeks ago we saw a student art show at my daughter’s school. I came across an impressive picture of what seemed to be a vast expanse of space. At the bottom it read: ‘All that exists are atoms and space. Everything else is opinion.’ The philosopher in me smiled at the approach, but as a parent I had to dissent. Although many eminent philosophers would agree with this student’s sentiment, it strikes me as a rather indulgent way of looking at the human condition.
Yes, the material conditions of the universe seem to be obviously true, whereas ideas about how human beings should be, and how they should act, seem to be less obviously true. But the conditions of space and matter – and therefore time – make certain things true about us as human beings. Since human beings exist in space and time, human relationships can only be developed by using time.
This is not merely an opinion. This is a truth that bears directly on what is involved in raising happy human beings. Parenting requires thought, which requires time. My suggestion is to embrace this truth, and recognize the value in every moment that you have together.

Holly Hamilton-Bleakley is a mother of six living in the USA. She holds an MPhil and PhD in Intellectual History and Political Thought from the University of Cambridge (England). She blogs at Philosophy for Parents, where this article was first published. 

Found at on March 20, 2016.


Marriage Upgrade through Family Enrichment

Wedding Feast at Cana

One of the most common subjects when preparing for marriage, whether you have a religious background or not is communication.  Communication is brought up and cannot be brought up enough.  One of the cornerstones for a successful marriage, and there are a few…is communication.  One proactive way to build and keep open lines of communication with your spouse is partaking in Family Enrichment.  John Keefe offers a personal testimony about the his marriage, family and the program at  If you are in Texas, a you can locate an active Family Enrichment program.


It’s been a while since my wife Patti and I had children below the age of nine. But then came the grandchildren.

So I guess we are still in the education game, except that a) we are not raising them, and b) we are not their primary educators. But we can help.

Patti and I took a family enrichment course back in the late 70’s when we had just one child. Jim Morgan of Boston had invited Raphael Pich, one of the founders of Family Development, to come to the U.S. from Spain and offer the course here. Inspired by the teachings of Saint Josemaria, Pich saw clearly the great need to defend and strengthen the family in today’s society.

We had the benefit of taking the course with a mix of younger and older couples, a dynamic in which especially the younger couples enjoyed the comments and perspective of those who were older since they were speaking from experience.

We learned from Raphael Pich how to apply the case-study method to our family situations. With the case-study method, you read over a hypothetical case four times: first, by yourself; then with your spouse; next with a small group of couples; and then finally, with the moderator and all the groups together. During each review, you look at three things:

1. FACTS: People should be able to agree on the facts of a given case, with evidence in the text to support each of them. For our conversations, it is important that everyone be in agreement on the facts. Within a couple, there may sometimes be a person who “jumps to conclusions” by thinking that something is a fact, when in reality they are inferring or making an educated guess. Pich often used to say, “Where is that in the text? Do we know that’s true? Is that a fact or a supposition?” One of the skills developed from breaking-down the cases is learning to proceed with some caution. The facts are your foundation for assessing the problem. But if the facts are wrongly ascertained, your solution will solve a problem that isn’t there. Often you know you have a problem, but you are not sure what it is. Study the facts. Talk to your spouse.

2. PROBLEMS: Identifying the problem presented by a case involves some interpretation and analysis, and on this people do not have to agree. In fact, two different people will see two different problems in the same case. Hearing someone out who is seeing something you didn’t see or seeing it from a different angle can cause you to narrow your focus or broaden your scope or even change your view entirely. This happens hopefully within the couple, and in both small-group and large-group discussions. It is important to respect each other’s opinions, but also to make sure that a given opinion is grounded in the facts of the case. Are there cleardifficulties with specific problems?

3. SOLUTIONS: Here we are striving for tangible, practical solutions that address root causes. If you’ve done the first two steps well, an effective solution is easier to find.

With the help of this method, Patti and I were able to develop skills for problem-solving in our own family setting. And we used these skills while doing our most important work: raising our children to be mature adults, passing on the faith and love for the Church. Among the skills learned, I would highlight the following as keys to good parenting:

1. How to speak to each other and to the children
2. To watch, wait and listen before charging ahead with a solution
3. To appreciate the positive value of freedom
4. To value the importance of the unity of husband and wife

All this, along with a fundamental idea: not lectures but role models; not words but actions. We applied all these things for the next 30 plus years across all 11 of our children.

In the center, Raphael Pich, founder of Family Development, with John to the right and Patti to the left, pictured with other couples in the mid-90’s in Boston.

Sometimes your wife will make an implicit “call for help” when interacting with the children. When your spouse makes a call for help, the answer should always be YES. Unity in a marriage is a great gift to the children. It is the great secret. Even if your wife is wrong, if you support her then you are right. Let me say that again, this time very slowly. Even if your wife is wrong, if you support her, then you are right.

Why? Because you need to be where she is on any question, so that as husband and wife, mother and father, you are unified. Children thrive under this regime. So give in to your spouse, and stay united!

Here are the priorities for a happy marriage:

#1 priority: Spouse
#2 priority: Spouse
#3 priority (or lower): Children

It’s not a question of being humble or meek or submissive; it’s about being wise. The unity of husband and wife creates an umbrella in the home under which everything goes forward: discipline, meal times, bed time, get-togethers, etc.

A call for help is always an invitation for unity: “Be with me.” “Come with me over here.” All the problems can be solved if you are always with your spouse in unity.

The Family Enrichment course invites us to see that our interactions with our children need to be centered and focused on them as unique individuals at a certain moment in their physical, intellectual and emotional development. Therefore, we need to tailor our interactions to:

• Who they are
• What they are like now
• Where we want them to go

We are educating them as their primary educators–their parents–for freedom. Freedom from us, freedom to choose for themselves. We want them to choose the good, which will make them happy.

With this in mind, we want to work in close unity with our spouse to make a cheerful and happy home, with some order (not excessive), some discipline (mild), and lots of fun!

By learning from other parents in the course, older and younger, we can come up with some suggestion for our own family situation, and then work on those one or two items. These are small steps in the right direction: a family plan with a clear resolution.

I highly recommend finding a family enrichment course near you if you have the opportunity.

For information about possible courses in your area and contact information, click here.

Found at on March 20, 2016.

Truthful Parenting for Truthful Children

St. Joseph holding infant Jesus

How often do we want to hide the “bad” that happen at work, with other family members or friends from our children to protect them?  In a recent article, “Protecting our kids from emotions,” for, Caryn Rivadeneira writes about the importance of emotions being truthful with our emotions to our children.

Here is her article reprinted:

Every parent tells white lies. Harmless deceptions like letting your children believe in Santa or the tooth fairy because it brings them joy (and hopefully incentivizes them to behave better around the holidays). But there is another kind of lie parents tell with only the best intentions: emotional ones. And most adults probably don’t even realize they’re doing it.

When something upsetting happens, it’s not uncommon for a parent to pretend that everything is fine. It’s one of those helicopter-parent instincts to protect your child. Maybe you want to cry or get angry, but instead you breathe deeply, and pull yourself together before facing your kids. The logic is clear: there’s no need to burden your kids with your rough day, or scare them with your red-face or teary eyes. Good parents are superheroes and role models, who should shield their kids from troubled moments. Or should they?

A recent study from the University of Toronto found that parents who suppress negative emotions while bolstering positive emotions while talking with their kids “reported experiencing lower authenticity, emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness to their children’s needs.”

In other words, when we paste on that smile and push down sad or frustrated feelings in order to give our kids a harmonious home, we’re actually doing everyone a disservice—including the adults. Parents who suppressed upset in front of their children in the study ended up feeling worse because those fake smiles and faux cheer made them feel like liars later. And lying to our kids (even the white kind) never feels great.

But, perhaps more importantly, parents need to think about what this does to our kids. When kids aren’t exposed to raw emotions, they aren’t getting a realistic view of life. In fact, other studies indicate that when kids see their parents hurt or even cry, it helps develop empathy.

“The capacity to notice the distress of others, and to be moved by it, can be a critical component of what is called pro-social behavior, actions that benefit others: individuals, groups or society as a whole,” says Perri Klass, MD, professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University.

When kids notice their parents distress and respond to it, that situation not only helps them empathize, but engaging in the act of listening or offering a hug or other kind gesture to their family members helps them feel better. Certainly this is something we understand as adults. When a friend shares a hardship and we offer a listening ear and a supportive embrace, we all feel better. Even if it means we had to enter into someone else’s hurt to get there. It’s the same for kids.

But those of us who have broken down in front of our kids and lived to tell about it know that the benefits don’t stop there. Because sometimes when you lose your cool, it leads to insightful conversation with your kids.

As a mother of three, I’ve experienced this first hand. Yes, I’ve lost my composure, and yelled at my kids. In those moments, I’m not the model of happiness or calm. But I end up being the model of the art of apology. As awful as I feel post-eruption, the sweetness of the moments offering a heart-felt apology (often with a stab at an “explanation”) show my kids how to say sorry. Being granted forgiveness or second chances, and understanding that we all make mistakes, are important lessons in the life of a family.

I’ve also used these outbursts to teach my kids about the beauty of bad days, in that, we all have them, but we also all get through them. In the times my kids have seen me cry or just generally feel sad, it’s led to great discussions about our need as humans to wade through some tough stuff but also about the hope (and the truth) that it does get better.

That said, there is a line to be drawn. The benefits of being “emotionally honest” with kids doesn’t necessarily mean sharing every last emotion or every last detail with them.

According to Beth Proudfoot, a marriage and family therapist and parent educator in San Jose, California, and co-author of the audiobook, The Magic of Positive Parentingkids tend to think our tears are always about them. So we have to be careful and clear about the reasons for our emotions.

Experts also warn about sharing too many details. Instead, offering our kids a general reason, reminding them it’s not about them, and assuring them everything will be okay (and that crying is good!) helps kids understand—and relate.

And ultimately, this is what our emotions are about. They are meant to help connect us to our families and to the world around us.

Found at,%202016%2002:00%20pm on March 19, 2016.