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The Benefit of ‘Slow Parenting’

I don’t know about you but I am constantly in a hurry.  I always have been.  I am usually late for everything and somehow, even when I’m not late, I feel late, so I am constantly rushing.

My mind is a constant whir of activity, which does’t help anything either.  There is a laundry list in my brain of things that I think need to be done NOW.  But does it really?  As I am getting older, I am realizing that not all things have to be done NOW, perfectly or even haphazardly.  I am learning that dog hair on my floors come with….well, having dogs.  There was a day when I literally vacuumed my floors twice a day.  Granted my house was much smaller then, but really….twice a day?  I am also learning that the laundry doesn’t always have to be completely done or the dishwasher always emptied.  This all sounds great NOW but I wish I would’ve learned this LONG ago, when my own boys were still young.  As evidence of how much I love my Kirby, I found these TWO pictures of my boys…..with my vacuum.  I mean seriously!  

I ask my boys often if they think I was a good mom, and they always answer “yes”.  BUT could’ve I been a better mom??  This I don’t ask them, but in my heart I know that I should’ve embraced my boys as children so much more than I did.  Bruce and I were young when we had our kids and so essentially, we grew up with our kids.  We each worked hard to make ends meet and so often, I wished for time to hurry up.  First, I wished that they would get big enough to go to school so I could go back to school for nursing.  Then, I wished that they would get big enough that when we worked, they could watch themselves.  And finally, I wished that they would get big enough that they would graduate from high school so that homework would stop (yes, I was that mom that wrote more than one high school paper POST my own high school career ;-))

I was so busy making my own life that I wished my time with my kids away.  I didn’t mean to.  I love my boys more than I could ever put into words.   Darek will always be my “big boy” and Dari, “my baby”.  They are now 29 and 27 and there are times that I look at them, and my heart catches.  It actually hurts because I realize that my boys are now men and that I can never, ever go back to when they were little.  And what I wouldn’t do to be able to do that….

To emphasize again, I am nearly 50.  My boys nearly 30I am not sure HOW that happened, but it did.  And for those of you with young ones, it will for you too.  If I could encourage you to do one thing, it would be to slow down and EMBRACE your children; the good and the bad, several times a day BECAUSE they will get BIG and then you can’t GO BACK!

“I encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack,” Duffy says. “Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.”  John Duffy, clinical psychologist from the Available Parent.

I didn’t do this enough.  I know that I didn’t.

I believe that the majority of us are guilty of this.  So often our kids will say, “I’m bored” and right away we feel pressured to fill a calm void with action.  Boredom has gotten a really bad rap here in our “Western, industrialized, busy-bee, always on the move” culture.  It is the idea that we always have to be doing something or accomplishing a task.  I know for myself that as soon as my busy work is done and I am at a lull, there is almost a panic that sets in.  I always feel that I should be filling any void with an activity: exercise, housework, walking the dogs, cleaning out the fridge because if I don’t, I will fall behind.

I know that I am guilty of feeling like I have to fill time for myself and for others when we are “bored”.  But what if we didn’t do that?  What if we allowed ourselves the time to embrace that boredom with anticipation?  What if we allowed ourselves the chance to be bored?

Times have changed.  Today we fill our time with one stimulation after another to the point of over stimulation.  Then when we are bored, we have no idea how to first, simply enjoy the quieter time; and second, how to fill our time without direction.  As a young child, I remember that I was never bored.  We filled our time with one adventure after another.  We lived in nature building forts out of tree limbs and making mud pies for lunch.  Today we live in a society where kids are in one activity after another, one social event after another and there is never a time for pause.  We also live in a society where we are immersed with electronics.  The over stimulation is everywhere.

We no longer know HOW to slow down, to embrace the quiet and to enjoy simpler things.  We also no longer let our children figure out how to fill their boredom using their own creativity.  Again, when I was young, my parents didn’t steer me in a direction to fill empty time, we simply figured it out.

There is really a two-fold process here.  Parents and children needing to understand that time doesn’t always have to be filled every second of every day.  That quiet time is good and maybe it requires embracing more inner peace.  We also have to understand that our days can simply unfold, without an agenda that starts first thing in the morning and ends late at night, for us and our children.

The other day, Darien came into Rochester from Winona to get some things.  It was a Friday and Bruce and I were both off and home, because it was supposed to be a chemo day but they had rescheduled it.  So we all (Bruce, the boys and my niece (her friend) and nephew) went out for a spontaneous bite to eat.  It was very nice.

After going out to eat, I took my niece Madi and her friend to the mall.  Poor Nolan had to tag along.  As we waited for Madi and her friend to shop, Noli and I meandered around the mall.  We stopped here and there.  No agenda and no where we HAD to be.  We settled at the Build A Bear racket…I mean shop, and somehow, I found myself buying a T-Rex for about $50 (accessories you know).  And I loved every minute of it. 

Nolan held my hand the whole time (he is the softest, sweetest child ever, he warms my heart so much) and he was so into every aspect of building his Jurassic World dinosaur.  At times, my mind would wander anxiously (….I have so much to do, remember the blahs, blahs?) BUT I would purposely pull my mind back to the present, and I just enjoyed my time with him while we waited.  I never did that with my own kids…..I was always pulling them through whichever store, to the next destination, always in a rush.

After the mall, Nolan and I went to Jurassic World for the second time (even though it was well past our bed time).

This whole day was spontaneous, and it was a lovely day, as we just let it unfold in it’s own direction.

I had anticipated getting so much done this day off, as I had to work parts of that upcoming weekend, and instead I got nothing accomplished that I had planned.  I will be honest and say that there were definitely times that I would start to think that I really needed to get home to get things accomplished, but I would bring myself back to the present.

Instead of cleaning, I enjoyed the entire day with my family.  Yes, the dog hair greeted me when I got home late that night, but at the end of the day what will THEY remember?  Bits and pieces of this day perhaps, OR the fact that I had dog hair on my floor that I vacuumed up?

I wish I would’ve realized that more when my boys were little. 

I wish I would’ve embraced a little more ‘slow parenting’ as life sped by us.  

In recent years, the movement known as “slow parenting” has evolved. Loosely, slow parenting means no more rushing around physically and metaphorically, no more racing kids from soccer to violin to art class. Slow parenting cherishes quality over quantity, being in the moment, and making meaningful connections with your family.

Going forward, I am inspired to slow down and enjoy whatever comes.  Maybe it’s an impromptu lunch with Darek.  Maybe an unplanned movie with Dari.  Maybe it’s a Build A Bear excursion with Noli.  Maybe it’s clothes shopping with Madi or Bell.  Maybe it’s actually taking a few minutes to sit with Eli when he wants me to play a game with him (instead of distracting him with something else).  Maybe it’s encouraging the kids to sit with me on the front porch for a little quiet time.  Maybe it’s a walk with Elsa, taking in nature.  Maybe it’s breaking out a book, the old fashioned kind, not the Nook Book.



On our recent trip up north, we were enjoying the views of Lake Superior.  The kids, Chad and the boys were skipping rocks across the lake.  I remember thinking that we had to get going to the next destination but I made myself stop….and I just stood and watched them.  I watched as Chad and Dari playfully fought over who skipped the best rocks.  I watched as Madi sat patiently watching the idle competition.  I noticed Noli trying hard to skip a rock time and again, while watching and learning from his dad and Dari.  I watched as Darek sometimes participated, and at other times, just watched.  I noticed Bruce sit there, and take in his family enjoying this idle time.Darek caught me in my trance as I was taking in everything around me.  It is times like this that I didn’t do enough of when my own kids were little.  

Also on our trip up north, we went to a lake with some nice beaches and the kids played all day.  I will admit that at times it was difficult to just sit and lull this whole day away.  I am not sure why it is so difficult to embrace the quieter times, but it seems always a work in progress, at least for me.  It was so nice to watch the kids play and spend their whole day building sand forts, burying each other in sand, and splashing in the water with each other.   They let their imaginations guide them.

It was also nice to see the “big kids”, aka, men, enjoy the water and the fun as much as the younger kids did.

 



I think that I now realize just WHY grandparents say that they ENJOY their grandchildren so much more than they did their own children.  It’s 100% NOT that the love was any less for their children, we LOVE our kids always, with OUR whole heart.  It’s just that somewhere along the way, with AGE does come the wisdom that TIME is FLYING by and that every day matters, and minutes and hours within a day make our memories.  We realize this often too late for our own children, but as grandparents we get a sort of “do-over” with our grandchildren.  

It is the littlest, most seemingly insignificant things that I remember MOST from my childhood.  But these are what make up my memories.  These are what make up my own boy’s memories.  When I ask them what they remember, it is always the most random things that I never paid a mind to that they carry forward.

Slowing down, taking in more of these moments, the simple, every day moments, is what life is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

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