Building in Margin
“Mama, can we stop at the construction site?” is a question that I hear regularly from my son when we are driving. Now you need to know that trucks are his favorite thing to learn about. So, of course, I wish that I could include real, multi-sensory experiences like this in his life often.
While I’ve been skilled at wishing, what I haven’t been so skilled at is leaving time in our schedule. When I’m at home, I don’t plan to spontaneously stop and watch construction work on the way to biblestudy. Often, we load up into the car on-time or a few minutes later than I’d planned. Then, when we pass the excavator and dump truck in motion, I feel anxious about the tension that’s pulling inside of me. Yes, it’s an excellent learning opportunity. No, I wasn’t wise enough to have left early so we could stop for 5 minutes now. By now, I both feel like I should stop and I feel trapped that I can’t. Bring on the intensifying emotions.
In the past month or two, I’ve identified the wisdom of building in margin and have begun offering that wisdom to my family as well. While we still drive past construction sites, I more often get to say “Yes, let’s stop,” than I did before. I now teach my eager son about how we built in margin by getting our shoes and coats on straightaway. Or, conversely, I get to disciple him on how we didn’t steward our time well because Mama wanted to finish extra work. Or, how we spent our margin time today already on resolving a conflict. These rich conversations that add wisdom to my life and to the lives of our children.
As a girl, I never understood why people would encourage me to show up early. I viewed arriving 10 minutes early like having a block of emptiness in my schedule. It was a genuine waste of 10 minutes. Now I realize that showing up early is subtly different from building in margin. Being early means that you intentionally plan on extra time at the planned activity. Having margin means that you can spend it on any number of opportunities that spontaneously present themselves. Because life is dynamic, not static, margin makes sense to me in a way that “showing up early” doesn’t.
I’ve begun to appreciate building in margin. Perhaps it means having time to pull into a neighbor’s driveway and chat for 3 minutes. Or maybe, it’s pulling out the fruit we already arranged for a snack, which allows me to comfort my son when he’s feeling scared of spiders lurking behind beds. Yes, I always could choose to prioritize these things when they come up; however, when I have wiggle room built in, I don’t have the accompanying anxiety about what I’m sacrificing in order to be present.