Sane Family Practices: The Sabbath Hour

Last night a few minutes before 8:00pm Gleny, our almost-12-year-old fireball with her frizzy hair all out of place and clunking about in her rather large, black rain boots to accompany her pajamas, laughed hysterically as she came out of the bathroom. It was one of those sincere laughs that rattles your whole being, almost violent with joy as she confessed through loud, sincere bursts, “Ok! Good night, Ma and Pa — this time it’s for real…”

She clunked right past us in her big ole rubber boots, her body still convulsing joyfully, and entered the bedroom she shares with two of her older sisters. As the curtain closed silently behind her, so, too, our entire cinderblock home became enveloped in an immediate silence.

Biting my lip and holding back a similar belly laugh that Gleny herself had experienced only moments prior, I looked over at my husband as we both sat on our living room couch, each with a book in hand — reading as much as serving as our home’s watchful vigilantes.

You see, about four or five months ago we instituted the “Sabbath Hour” in our home every night. Well, every night except Fridays, that is. At 7:15pm everyone enters their bedroom — teeth already brushed, showers already completed, all conversations already had — and our entire household enters into total silence. No laughing, no idle chit-chatting, no running about.

The general rule is this: we don’t want to hear you; we don’t want to see you. If you want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading, drawing, praying, etc — that is fine. If you go to bed immediately upon entering the Sabbath Hour, that is fine. But at 7:15pm everyone will be tucked away in their room, and we will rest.

So many months ago we got this idea from Danny Silk’s book Loving Our Kids on Purpose. In the book the author calls this idea “Room Time,” but we have changed the name in our household because our kids didn’t like the original name. While this daily routine of silence is a healthy exercise for our kids (after having spent the entire day in constant activity playing, learning, interacting with other people, etc, they have a designated, protected time each evening to rest emotionally and spiritually, seek God in His Word, etc), it is even healthier for the parents. (Alas, perhaps we should have named it “The Sanity Hour!”)

So with dogged persistence and undeterred consistency Darwin and I have established and protected our family’s Sabbath Hour as if our life depended on it (because it does!), and those neighbors of ours who occasionally call in the evenings even know that they must do so before we enter the Sabbath Hour because after 7:15pm we don’t receive calls.

Despite the many (many) times our kids have tried to persuade us to push the hour back (or do away with it altogether — it’s so hard not to talk, laugh, and jump around noisily when you’ve got really fun roommates!), by God’s grace we have continued onward, respecting and protecting the Sabbath Hour for many months now. (Oh, how many times even during that blessed Sabbath Hour have one or two of our kids daringly opened their curtains and come out to the living room or knocked on our bedroom door to try to reel me in to their love trap, putting on cute faces and trying to get me to solve this or that problem or do any number of things that could have been done earlier that afternoon! I merely say lovingly, “Now is not the time. You should have told me that earlier. Now it’s the Sabbath Hour. I love you so much. Good night!”)

So what happens when we hear a loud shriek of laughter or some little voice is heard chit-chatting when all should be silent after 7:15pm? Darwin and I call the perpetrator(s) calmly, hand them a couple plastic grocery bags, and send them outside with a flashlight to pick up a few dog poops. And if that doesn’t do the trick, we send them out again to sweep the three rather large porches on our fenced-in rural property. Then, they re-enter their room and resume the Sabbath Hour.

Last night as we reached the blessed 7:15pm mark, warm bedtime hugs were given and everyone was herded toward their bedroom. Door curtains opened to let in their inhabitants and then dropped closed behind them. “The Sabbath Hour starts on the count of three! 1, 2, 3…”

All became quiet.

I grabbed Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and headed for our living room couch in my pajamas to read, a rare treat that can only be enjoyed during the Sabbath Hour.

The only overpowering noise heard in our entire house was the water falling from the shower in our bathroom as Darwin bathed (and in our house, you can hear everything. If someone coughs at the other end of the house, you can hear it). I contemplated my own breath peacefully entering and exiting my nostrils, such a small noise that during cacophonous hours is easily overlooked. The creaking of beds, soft footsteps across bedroom floors, the quiet rustling of books and papers, and the opening of a dresser drawer. The sound of Legos building upon one another as Josue played in his bed not five yards from where I sat. Our dogs, too, respected the Sabbath Hour as they lazily sprawled out on our porch, thankful for another day well spent.

A few moments later, Darwin came to join me on the couch, Bible in hand.

Fifteen minutes or so passed in total silence as we read, breathed. Then, unexpectedly, a few little whispers started. As any parent knows, when children are involved, a whisper can turn into a full-out hullaballoo faster than you can say “Sabbath Hour,” so Darwin and I looked at each other, eyebrows arched, and I motioned for him to go investigate the situation.

He got up from our little multi-colored couch as his even words declared for our whole little house to hear, “Ok, those who were whispering, come on out. I’ll get the plastic bags.”

A couple moments passed before Dayana, our 15-year-old daughter who quite proudly holds the title of “eldest,” suddenly appeared in our living room from the other side of her bedroom curtain, a small grin taking over her face as she knew she had been caught red-handed. She had on her pajamas with her big, curly hair going in all directions. I made eye contact with her and couldn’t help but smile.

Darwin then came out of our room with a couple plastic bags in hand as almost-12-year-old Gleny suddenly burst on the scene behind her elder sister, laughing hysterically as she slipped on her big ole rubber boots.

Darwin in monotone: “Three poops each.”

Gleny, laughing and eyeing her older sister: “Like three little droplets?”

Me (knowing she was trying to find a loophole and pick up three little droplets that were all part of the same overall poo): “No. Three whole poops. We love you guys.”

The sisters groaned good-naturedly, Dayana with flashlight in hand, and soon enough they were walking out the front door. Gleny turned around, trying to engage us in some last-minute joke or silly pre-teen commentary, but I answered, “Gleny, it’s the Sabbath Hour. See you soon.”

So about 10 or 15 minutes later we heard a knock at our front door accompanied by some giggles, and Darwin answered.

Their triumphant declaration: “We’ve got the poops!”

So they went, threw them away in our outside trash barrel, and came in, now (mostly) in silence as Gleny still wrestled with intense laughter. They washed their hands in the bathroom, and then were off to their room.

That was when Gleny confessed through a big grin and burst of giggles, “Ok! Good night, Ma and Pa — this time it’s for real…”

 

Amen! Glory to God for the precious Sabbath Hour!

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