On Slow Parenting

Have you been reading about the Slow Parenting movement that’s been having resurgence on the web these days? Simply put, slow parenting means cutting way down on the overwhelming amount of activities most families take on and instead, spending time together, taking life at a slower pace and not always feeling so darn rushed.

It seems simple, even rather like common sense, but when you really think about it, being busy happens way too easily for families. Want your kid to make the high school soccer team? Better start at age three or he’ll be lagging behind. Not sure which sport is his thing yet? Best to put him in three or four and see which one he excels in. Add an art and music class to make sure he is well rounded. It’s true what the New York Times says, that parenting can feel more like, “a cross between a competitive sport and product-development.” Sometimes it feels like we start honing our kids’ perfect applications and resumes before they are even old enough to pronounce those words.

The truth is, all of this running around probably does nothing but run me down, run my child down and increase my ever-present mom guilt on so many levels. Guilty if we schedule them, guilty if we don’t give them the same opportunities as their peers.

After reading Joanna Goddard’s post, I decided to try it out with my 2- and 4-year-old. It went a little differently than I thought because as a rule, I am rarely late. I plan ahead, I pre-pack the bags and the snacks; the stroller is all ready to go in the trunk. But sometimes efficiency is just not the way of children. This weekend, we took our time eating breakfast and read a stack of books together while still at the table. We meandered through the morning with a walk around the block, some insect examining and a long conversation about why the Arizona sky has less clouds than the sky at their grandmother’s house in Washington. I will say that typically, I would have tried to fit in a few errands, a trip to the gym and some cleaning in the morning. While I didn’t get much done, I did have happy, relaxed children whose earnestness just about brought tears to my eyes.

When quiet time/nap time approached, I began to get things ready for a trip to the aquarium we had planned with friends that afternoon. Blissfully, my four year old quietly played Legos, then curled up on the couch and took a nice little snooze while his sister slept upstairs. I kept fretfully looking at the clock thinking, I need to wake them up to get to the aquarium on time. Then I realized, why on earth would I wake up my children who clearly need to be resting? Memories of an earlier, disastrous trip the zoo came roaring back. Guess what is the easiest way to waste money? Taking tired, cranky, hungry kids to an overpriced attraction for hours on end. Instead of hurrying everyone along, I texted my friend to tell her that my kids were still napping. Her response: “Oh that’s so great. I was trying to wake up the twins and they just wouldn’t wake up! Call you when we leave.”

We both arrived at the aquarium a little later than expected but it didn’t matter one bit. The kids liked the aquarium so much that after walking through the entire place, we turned around and walked through it again. No one had a tantrum. No one was unkind, no one cried or had to have a time out. We just enjoyed ourselves and had a nice day. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, it’s been far too long since one of those came along for me.

It kind of goes back to when my dad was teaching me how to snow ski at age six. He said, “If you’re going too fast, slow down until you feel yourself in control.” How many times has my week felt like I was slamming down that slope, careening toward some distant destination at the bottom, only to ride the chairlift up for another round? Slowing down helps everyone feel more in control – me, the kids, the situation my husband comes home to, the family as a whole. It probably sounds like common sense but it bears emphasizing: when my kids don’t feel like things are spinning out of control in their lives, they just behave better.

The other day, my kids were pretending. Just playing with their toys, making up stories and turning the back porch into a make believe world. Slowing down. We needed the reminder. And we’ll be trying it a lot more this summer.

More great thoughts about slow parenting: