I love listening to my preschooler talk about time. She often tells me about how she’s going to clean up her room “yesterday tomorrow” and she also asks me if I remember a place we visited last year (when it was only a week ago). She has no concept of how long a minute is and no idea that there are 60 minutes in an hour.
I found out recently, I’m no better than her when it comes to measuring time.
I’ve always measured my time by minutes, hours, and weeks. I thrive on schedules and plans and routines. When I realized my husband and I would be working from home for the foreseeable future with four kids eight and under, who would need our help to complete school work, I immediately worked out a daily schedule for our family of six.
I tend to cling to schedules the most in the midst of uncertainty because organizing time gives me a sense of security and control.
Our first full week of sheltering in place at home with two working adults, three kids with school work, and one very energetic 18-month-old boy, was a complete disaster. I was frustrated to be pulled in so many directions, overwhelmed at figuring out so many new things in a short amount of time, and irritated that we couldn’t stick to my perfectly laid out schedule.
The second week of sheltering in place I was reminded that there are two words for time in Greek: chronos and kairos. Chronos is time measured in seconds, minutes, hours, and weeks. My life pre-pandemic operated almost exclusively in chronos time. My seconds, minutes, and hours were all accounted for and planned. I felt accomplished when we arrived at the right place at the right time with mostly everything we needed. In my mind, my success was intertwined with how efficient I was with my time.
My life pre-pandemic operated almost exclusively in “chronos” time. My seconds, minutes, and hours were all accounted for and planned.
But then there’s kairos time. Kairos is measured in opportune moments. Pockets of time where things click, people connect, time almost stands still, and you’re transformed a little bit moving forward. I had experienced these moments before, but my desire to schedule every minute made it difficult for me to slow down enough to enjoy them.
The first week of sheltering in place I measured time, and our success as a family, in chronos time.
The second week I started to measure our time and success in kairos time; I started measuring time in moments.
When I began measuring my time in moments, and not in minutes or hours, I was freed to notice what my business hadn’t allowed before.
A few weeks ago I would have talked my kids out of baking cookies because I would have calculated how long it would take to clean batter off the countertop and floor, how many times I would need to referee over who cracks the egg, and how many dishes were dirtied.
Now, instead of focusing on how long it will take, I think about what connection or special moment we might have while doing the activity together. This doesn’t mean there won’t be fighting or frustration, but the connection and growth that happens in these moments draws our family together and strengthens our relationships.
Now, instead of rushing to throw the next load of laundry in so I can move on to the next task, I giggle with my son as he “helps” me get all the clothes into the washing machine. It takes twice as long, but I get the chance to notice how his eyelashes curl and rest on his cheek when he laughs. Instead of raising my voice at my six-year-old for not wanting to go to bed I ask her why and try to hold back a smile as she matter of factly explains she’s nocturnal. I take the time to pull her into my lap and ask her to tell me more about being nocturnal.
These kairos moments transform me for the better. Connections are made. Lessons are learned. It’s as if something breaks into my everyday life and says, “Pay attention…because this moment matters.”
There are still parts of our day that center on chronos time. My husband and I have scheduled zoom calls, (as do our kids), our son naps every afternoon, and my kids are cranky if dinner is much past six. But I hope my family doesn’t go back to measuring our day exclusively with chronos time again. I hope the connections we make now will continually remind us of our need to connect as a family every day in kairos moments. I hope we can remember that counting the seconds isn’t always what is most important, but rather it is making the seconds count.