(Above, Samuel, Maia, and Ruth at parallel play in the sandbox)
I meant to write this blog back in April. That was the time when all of my classmates and I were scrambling to get our papers finished for the semester. It's the time of the year when I always joke that the reason they give grad students the offices without windows is so that we don't defenestrate. One nice, sunny day in April I had the opportunity to take Maia to the park, and it brought upon me the following reflection.
Whereas usually I bemoan the advantages of my childless classmates, on this particular day I was feeling the distinct advantage of being a theologian mom. Let's admit it: unless you have a kid, there's just no reason why a busy grad student should spend two and a half hours at a park watching kids dig in the sand. Yes, my childless classmates had absolutely no excuse for not sitting in their crowded, windowless, caves of offices typing away on their computers for ten hours straight in the midst of a beautiful day. Meanwhile, I had several excuses, not the least of which was spending time with my daughter. Add to that the fact that my husband was teaching class at the time, not to mention the benefit of a mid-day work-out, and my spending two and a half hours at the park was completely defensible.
One problem with the life of academia is that it doesn't really provide breaks. Perhaps the pace slows in the summer, but I certainly wouldn't call it a "break." Nor would I call spring "break" a break; that's crucial researching time and grading time. And, let's be honest, there aren't really "weekends" when you're a graduate student. There are simply pressing deadlines and more pressing deadlines. But one great thing about having a kid is that it makes you take breaks.
I think my time at the park often serves as little "mini-sabbaths," if you will. It's a time where my brain can lie fallow and hence discover hidden insights. Ok, I'll admit that it helps that I often run into one of my classmates or his wife, both of whom are theologians (and whose children are pictured above). But our theological musings often have to do just as much with our children's behavior (sharing, not sharing, throwing sand, not throwing sand, etc.) than with the books we are reading.
When it comes to moral theology, I'm pretty obsessed by the idea of formation. And when it comes to park behavior, I'm also pretty obsessed by the idea of formation. Maia is learning to play every day. She is climbing, running, digging, swimming, swinging, talking, sharing snacks, and so on. She's using her imagination (at the moment, she's really into making "birthday cakes" out of sand), meeting strangers, and making friends. Occassionally kids are rude to her, and sometimes she trips and skins a knee. In her reactions to these events, as well as the positive events, Maia is forming habits and acquiring virtues.
Perhaps it is hyperbolic to say that "Everything I needed to know about theology I learned at the park." But I do think that watching Maia at play is ultimately beneficial for my theological education. It gives me pause to think about what life is really about... not so much the frantic work that goes into meeting a deadline, but the reason behind doing that work: the motivation of trying to live God's will and do God's work as a theologian mom.