My grandparents’ home in Steubenville, Ohio. This picture was probably taken in the late 30′s or early 40′s but is very close (sans horse) to what I remember from the 50′s and 60′s. My sisters and I spent hundreds of hours playing in the yard or on the covered porch.
The Right Speed for Family Life
“This time, like all times, is a very good one. If we but know what to do with it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is there a right speed for family life? Is there a pace that enhances relationships rather than hinders?
The great composers labored over their compositions, choosing the perfect tempo for their work. They recognized the correct tempo was critical and could energize their masterpiece or render it lifeless on the page.
The often used tempos: adagio, lento and allegro, determine not only the pace but also the mood of the composition. In Gail Godwin’s book, Heart, she offers a personal interpretation of the lesser known “tempo giusto.”
“The Italians have a musical notation not found in any other language: tempo giusto, ‘the right tempo.’ It means a steady, normal beat, between 66 and 76 on the metronome. Tempo giusto is the appropriate beat of the human heart.
There is a ‘right tempo’ for family life, a steady, unhurried tempo that allows the masterpiece to come to life. Our choice of tempo sets the pace at which we live and contributes to the mood in our home.
The “right tempo” injects stops and rests in our allegro and fortissimo lives, giving us moments to reflect on the small but critical relational elements that make our house a warm and inviting home. The “right tempo” for our family should reflect the steady beat of our hearts.
Family life suffers from our culture’s addiction to speed. With each frantic tick of the clock, we batter our health, relationships and peace of mind as we struggle to keep up. Crucial life conversations are squeezed in between practices, performances, games and play dates. We choke every time we hear ourselves bark, “Hurry up!”
The Sabbath has become a day to catch up on chores and errands rather than a day to re-connect with God, family and friends as we experience “the rest of God,” or as Mark Buchanan reminds us, “the facets of God we discover only through stillness.”
My grandparents cherished ‘tempo giusto.’ Hot summer days slid by while they sipped sweating glasses of iced tea, spending hours parked in metal lawn chairs, swatting mosquitoes and watching little girls in sundresses chase fireflies. Their unhurried gait allowed for impromptu words of encouragement, laughs, smiles and hugs that have left me a richer person.
Fifty years later, I would declare that my grandparents lived at the right speed for family life. While it is unrealistic to expect a return to the peaceful summer days of the 1950’s, who can deny that we are being unwillingly swept downstream in a current of anxiety, hurry and stress? We daily gasp for air as we struggle to keep our bobbing heads above the roaring water.
It is time to recover our own “tempo giusto.”
As a grandparent, I assumed I would have found my “tempo giusto” by now.
But, I confess, I haven’t.
Today, I recommit myself to reassessing my life, refining my priorities and finding just the right speed so that I can better enjoy the fleeting moments of my grandchildren’s early years.
What are you doing to find your right speed? Please share your ideas on ways you are slowing down and enjoying life with your family.
 Gail Godwin, Heart: A Personal Journey Through Its Myths and Meanings (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2001)
 Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006) p.48