Covering parenting and child development issues
Slow down, you crazy child. You’re so ambitious for a juvenile, but then if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid? (Billy Joel, "Vienna")
Lately, I seem to be getting a lot of messages to slow down. There was the obvious one - a speeding ticket - right before we went on vacation. That worked for a bit, until I decided just to avoid that street since the street that paralleled it had a speed limit closer to my default. The truth is, I was mortified, and took it very seriously, but as I monitored my speed in the days that followed, I found that I typically did travel the speed limit, and so slowing down got moved to the back burner again, and I returned to my default speed - full steam ahead.
Then there are the small nudges. Locking myself out of the house because I was leaving in a hurry, trying to get something done within a certain time frame. Letting someone in front of me in line only to have her need to ask the barrista about every last detail of the drink she was attempting to order, leaving me twiddling my thumbs and lamenting the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted.
Why is it so hard to slow down? In the case of both the keys and the speeding ticket, hurrying only made everything take longer. I saved no time, and savored nothing except my own embarrassment.
As parents, how often do we hurry? Granted, sometimes, it’s unavoidable, but when we have opportunities to slow down, do we take them? Do we savor each stage in our kids’ lives, or do we waste time wishing they’d get to the next one, only to find ourselves wondering where the time went?
My baby started high school this year. I have only four more years until she leaves us for college and a life of her own. Don’t get me wrong - that’s what we raised her to do - but it’s bittersweet. She’s a great kid and she’ll be ready, but did I truly savor every bit of her childhood? I find myself wanting to slow down the next four years so I can enjoy every moment of them, but, as they say, time marches on.
While it’s unrealistic to expect that we can savor every moment of every day with our kids, we need to realize how important it is to do that at least some of the time. The odds are against us, though. Jobs, chores and other assorted responsibilities conspire to pull our attention in a hundred different directions. As I write this blog, for example, typing furiously in an attempt to finish before my daughter arrives home, the phones (house and cell) keep ringing, making it unlikely that I will finish before she walks through the door. The urge will be to keep typing, finish my thought, post this thing, check it off my list. But if I don’t take advantage of those first few minutes when she walks through the door, my window of opportunity will close, and I will miss out.
Several years ago, I was teaching a lesson in a fifth grade class when the conversation turned to sharing things with parents. These kids - these ten-year olds - looked at me strangely when I assured them that their parents wanted to know what was going on in their lives. And as the conversation progressed, it became clear that these not-yet-adolescents wanted to talk to their parents, too. They just didn’t know how.
As parents, it’s our job to provide our kids with opportunities, one of the most basic of which is the opportunity for conversation and communication. In all fairness, they can make it challenging at times - but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t open the door.
Speaking of opening doors, my daughter did, indeed, arrive home as I was still typing. I stood up, walked away from the computer and went to greet her. Does that make me Super Mom? Hardly. I’m as interested in her day as she is in telling me about it. Okay, I’m probably more interested in her day than she is in telling me about it.
But I’m even more interested in making sure she knows I’m interested in her.