“… then have Alexa read your kid a good-night story so you can have a few moments to yourself.”
“What?” my shotgun kid said in disbelief.
I had to double-take myself. I’m so used to rewinding to see or hear again, I reached for the remote control. Realizing that we’re driving and that radio doesn’t rewind, I repeated what we thought we heard one of our local personalities say to the rousing agreement-exclamations of her on-air buddies, “I think she just said to have Alexa read to your kid at night.”
“That kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?” She’s seventeen and would probably still stop for a sit and listen if a book is being read out loud – which we sometimes do, though not often enough. Still, she thought out loud, “What’s next? Alexa run my laps. Alexa brush my teeth. Alexa write my paper,” and laughed. “But read to your kid? That’s a kind of gross,” she concluded
I get the need for convenience. And, I fully understand the need for down time. But the thing about reading with your kid – it has so much more to do with relationship than anything else. Until we allow the ever-growing list of do’s and be’s with all their inherent product-pressures to rule. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that people aren’t products in today’s society driven by resumes, transcripts, bios, Abouts, etc. Good things can quickly be twisted and made to be a badge or belt-notch.
It is good to read out loud, together, next to each other. To escape via written word and to visit another land like Narnia, side-by-side. To feel the agony of a cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter that will just have to wait until tomorrow. But all that good can get lost in the act when it becomes a checked box on a list of do’s or be’s. When we reading is done to land on a list like Signs You’re A Good Parent (Grandparent, Aunt or even Sibling) or Ways To Increase Your Child’s IQ OR fill in the blank.

And it’s not just reading. We’re encouraged, rightfully so, to eat dinner together. It’s good to eat meals together since it’s “The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Kids.” But we can even trip that up by lathering on caveats – it must be at our kitchen table, at a set time, home-made, organically grown produce, in our own backyards. Because that’s what we often do – add to the list so we can be better, beyond just what needs to be done. Then, the small problem of enough comes into play – and enough is elusive at best.  But, great meals can be had on the fly. It’s the breaking of bread, together, conversing – the relationship part that matters. Because a good meal can even be shared in the carpool line while waiting for a brother to be let out of school.

Or volunteering. It’s good to volunteer. But the good can get lost in the doing primarily to check a box. Since we Spring Break staycationed (a common theme in our home for a lot of reasons) we had some free time. So, one of the days we hopped in the car and went to a favorite place to help out. It’s an easy spot to pop in and help clean or stock shelves or so many things. So we did. And we weren’t the only ones. Which could possibly prove that EVERYONE didn’t go out of town (though I get why it feels that way) and that I’m not the only person who thinks volunteering can be fun. But, truth be told, almost all the volunteers were there to check a box – get the hours. Which honestly is fine and a terrific requirement by schools and certain organizations since such things widen the scope of opportunities as well as understanding need. But, when we make volunteering a means to an end – like filling out a resume or checking a box – we make it about ourselves which takes away the beauty of and secret to service – eyes off us. Volunteering, like gratitude, can be such a powerful tool in our arsenal against so much of the world’s mis-messaging so often centered on getting ahead.

It can be a challenge to straddle such wonderful things in life that come with product-pressures. Especially when the “product” is a person. The pressures are real. And we actually need to do these good things, not only for proven health and well-being but also because they’re good for us. Some are actual requirements to graduate.

Maybe the secret is to weave into the mix unplanned moments of doing simply as an act of being. Volunteering just to do it out of the kindness of our hearts and for the experience.

  • With regard to our Spring Break helping out, I’m not sure any of us will soon forget digging through a palette of cabbages, discarding the rotten, pulling back slimy leaves to salvage the edible. Just remembering the smell alone ushers in groans and laughter that bring lingering smiles – no counting hours, simply being together and helping others.
  • Leisurely reading and enjoying the person sitting beside who only moments earlier moaned and pleaded No, I’d rather play my game – until the story caught their attention since that’s what good stories do.
  • And letting a carpool-lunch “count” (whatever that means) as a family meal since any time together – especially in the car where eyes tend to focus outward and honest thoughts easily flow – equals relationship.

Relationship – the one thing each and every human craves. Here’s to fighting for it in the midst of all the do’s and be’s.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

[Side-Note: Sorry for the radio silence of late. I’ve been putting final touches on a new book – a fun, but daunting prospect. I would really appreciate your prayers. I’m not kidding about my gratitude for walking the road together.]

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