Recently, I heard an expression from a parishioner. He told me that his dad explained parenting with the expression: "You have to let out the string." Just like flying a kite, to let your children soar, you have to let out the string. The immediate tightening in my gut at the thought means that he is on to something.
Having a child with some important medical needs means that there are certain things for which her mom and I will always be on the lookout. There are certain meds needed at certain times, which means that our family schedule is based around doses.
This same kid likes to climb, grab, throw, kick, scream, snuggle, dance, fuss and otherwise get into everything she can. Her mom and I have different levels of comfort with how far out to let the string. So trying to balance the care we give with letting out the string so that our daughter can grow into who she is becoming is a spiritual discipline. Negotiating our various anxieties as parents so that we can provide a loving but united front is a spiritual discipline. Getting enough rest to be worthwhile parents, functioning adults, and reasonable people is a spiritual discipline. Not taking it personally when my darling daughter develops an allergy to dad and must cling to mom, or when she is allergic to mom and must cling to dad, is a spiritual discipline.
There are many spiritual disciplines in the history and life of the church: fasting, prayer, service, silence, retreats, sabbath-keeping, alms-giving, sacraments, worship, lectio divina. Sometimes these seem like a luxury when my daughter takes so much time. But then I realize that my daughter, my family, constantly rebalancing my life between family and ministry, and learning how to let out the string, is worthy of being my main spiritual discipline for now.
I also know that I need some of these other spiritual disciplines to help me in the task. God knows I can't do this alone.