The thing that struck me about Clinton in this interview (It was a series of meetings as the Vogue writer was embedded for weeks as Chelsea worked.) is how well-adjusted, confident, and personally connected to friends and family she is. Clinton also has a strong sense of responsibility to serve others. All that we call “normal”. Or maybe more accurately, what we hope is normal for people. How does this young woman turn out so normal after having such an extraordinary beginning to her life? How did her parents keep her grounded? I think an important factor in who Chelsea Clinton is today is that her parents made time for her. We have heard many stories of how the Clinton family intentionally set aside time to be together. They shared regular meals together. They marked out time on their planners for each other. Usually they were simple activities. They shared the joys and struggles of daily life.
I think this is huge. Time! It may sound like an obvious question but – Why is time with our children so important?
· Time together is when they learn they are an important part of a community, a family. They learn from their parents how to prioritize the people most important to them. They notice when their parents slow down to really listen.
· Time together is when they learn to listen to others and value other people’s role in their lives. As the mother of an only child, I knew from the beginning that I did not want Katie to feel like the center of the universe. I love her and she is indescribably important to me but she is also part of a community where others are valued. I did not want her growing up to think that her opinions and her ideas are always the most important.
· Time together is when we are human together. We make mistakes and hurt each other. Our children not only see us in our best light but also when we need forgiveness.
· Time together is when a family shares its values. When each member knows what is important to others and
then how we act on those values in the wider community.
These are all the things our children learn from us, their parents, when we make time for them. And when we don’t…where will they learn of their innate value and how to share their gifts with the world?
This is something you hear about the Obama family as well: prioritizing and making time for each other. I am so impressed with how the President and the First Lady find ways to prioritize their children and family time. Are they, like the Clintons in the 90’s, just another family in an extraordinary circumstance being “normal”? But is it normal? I hear so many parents lament over how busy they are. I hear how they are too busy to sit down and eat together, to slow down enough (or turn off all the screens) to share in the ups and downs of the day, or to graciously have their children understand they are not the center of the family but an important part of their community.
I honestly do not think that the new normal is that we are too busy to slow down and be together. I do think we are sometimes too willing to let our busyness be a badge of honor and our excuse. Every family is busy. Every family has unique demands and struggles. Every family also has the potential to make decisions that prioritize their family time together. Yes, stories of the Clinton family and Obama family impress me but I know families in my own life and my own church who do the same thing. I look to them as I hope they sometimes look to me for help and inspiration.
It seems Chelsea Clinton has discovered her own path. That is something all parents wish for their children; that each child would have a strong sense of self and eventually a sense of purpose in and for the world.
Those things can’t be rushed. It takes time. And that’s what we have to give
them – time.