Trying Out Slow Parenting

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Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on May 26, 2015. Although we can’t go outside, the idea of sloooooowing way down felt timely…

After work and on the weekends, I often take our boys on neighborhood adventures — to the playground, to the carousel, to the bookstore, to the deli to get popsicles. But even though these outings are fun, I’ve found that…

…en route, I’m constantly calling after them: “Hurry up, sweetie!” “Let’s go!” “Keep walking!” “Come on, honey, follow me!”

One recent evening, I even challenged myself not to tell them any instructions for the next minute. And it made me realize how often I did — 60 seconds was hard to get through! The funny thing is, usually we’re not even in a rush. As an adult, I move at a faster pace than they do, and I’m also not great, generally, at relaxing, even on my own time. So, when Anton stops to examine a bicycle pedal or spots an ant on the ground or Toby walks slowly and dreamily down the block, I instinctively tell them to c’mon and come along.

The other day, I read a Boston Globe article about slow parenting, and it really resonated with me:

“I encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack,” [John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent] 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”…

“We don’t overschedule ourselves. My husband and I spend lots of time at home. My kids dig in the dirt and ride bikes, we blow bubbles and go to the beach,” says [Lindsay Miller, a mother of three boys, ages 2, 4, and 7]…

“These days when everyone is so busy, we need to be intentional about making space for family time…” Family time, says Contey [cofounder of Slow Family Living] is different for all of us. “You might say, ‘we’re all here on Thursday mornings, so let’s make a leisurely pancake breakfast’; or one night a week take a walk in the dark before bed. Something like that can feel really special and the kids will remember it as they get older”…

I loved that line about simply watching your children. The other day, the boys were taking a bath, and instead of cleaning up the room or scrubbing them down, I decided to look at them. I noticed how Anton’s hair sticks out to each side, like Doc from Back to the Future. And Toby was softly humming a tune, which I didn’t recognize at first, but then realized was “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music. (“And you and you and you!”) And their round bellies and serious focus on bath toys broke my heart from the sweetness. And I could have just as easily missed it!

My approach has typically been to squeeze in fun outings with them, especially if I’ve been at work all day. But maybe it’s nice sometimes to not do anything.

This month, I’m inspired to slow down and let the boys take the lead. Maybe we’ll skip a carousel excursion and instead just walk around the block as slowly as they’d like. Maybe we’ll take an hour! We’ll notice little things (like those fascinating bike pedals) and say hi to neighbors and turn around and sit on a bench and NOT, under any circumstances, hurry up.

What about you? Do you factor in slow-paced time with your little ones? It’s not a groundbreaking realization, but it feels like it in the moment.

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P.S. An outdoors challenge, and our vacation on Fire Island last summer that felt like slow parenting, as vacations sometimes do!

(Top photo by Kendra Smoot; bottom photo by Stephanie Congdon Barnes/Little Birds)