Slowing down

Any given morning in the life of us will look something like this:

Fred, please hurry up and eat.

Fred, more eating and less talking please.

Fred, we’ve got 8 minutes before we have to leave for school and you still have to brush your teeth.

Fred, I SAID, straight to the bathroom – no detouring, no touching any toys, no nothing! Just brush. your. teeth!

Fred, you have no sense of urgency whatsoever! COME ON!

We don’t quite know what exactly goes on inside our 8 year-old’s head while we are shouting to get him to move a little faster so he isn’t late for school, for taekwondo, for piano, for the dentist, even for the play date he had been waiting a whole week for. His first grade teacher once said to us, “He’s bright so he has a lot on his mind,” and ever since then I’ve been tacking his absent-mindedness to his intellect to make myself feel better, until my mother told me to stop making excuses for him.

And so Max and I have buckled down this week to try and find some no-crying-no-yelling-no-fuss solution to teach Fred the tools to watch and manage his time better.

And then a thought came to me. While Fred does need to learn to be more mindful of time, maybe many times he is moving at a pace that is perfectly normal and healthy for an 8 year-old – indeed, for an adult. It is Max and I who are going at 80 miles an hour, not because it is good but because it is how we have been trained to move all our adult lives – to wolf down lunches, multi-task, rush to meetings, meet multiple deadlines, and catch trains. We then become frustrated when Fred is simply moving at the speed limit.

Fred’s got a tight schedule, between school, after school care, dinner, taekwondo and homework. I have things scheduled like the military because we have to move with that kind of precision. There is no room to stop or look or touch or think. You just need to go go go. And Fred resists. He moves in slow motion. Maybe because he’s spacy, or maybe because he’s protesting, and he’s tired.

Last night Max and I made a plan to micromanage less and to entrust Fred with more autonomy to manage his morning and evening routines. We would encourage him to look at the clock and make his own schedule of how he plans to finish his tasks by a certain time.

At the same time, we took a cue from Fred, and decided to take him out of his after school care. We’d put him in there since kindergarten because both Max and I have to work, but he is now old enough to not need it (Max and I work out of our house). He’ll come straight home after school, and have time to do his homework without rushing and rest and play outside.

This morning was the first day of our “project,” and Fred got to school 10 minutes earlier than usual. He managed this even after taking a couple of minutes before putting his jacket on to literally just look at a new toy he’d just received. “I just want to look at and touch my Beyblade before I go,” he’d said. His new Beyblade is a rare gold spinning top, and he held it in his hands just a couple of inches from his face, admiring and stroking it before gently putting it down on his desk to head to the car. A week ago I would have blown my top and told him to get into the car already. Today, I’m taking a cue from him, and hoping that I can slow down enough to notice what really matters.

12 thoughts on “Slowing down

  1. I feel so fortunate to have met you for many reasons, Cecilia, and today I’m reminded of a big one: I see so many similarities between Fred and my oldest son. So often when I read your thoughts about him, I feel like I’m looking into my future and being given the gift of a gentle way of dealing with a situation I’m bound to face. I love what you have to say here about the way that kids think of time and why their approach might be a much more graceful, humane one of moving through the world. Please let me remember this post tomorrow when I’m hurrying my guy out the door! 🙂

    • I’m so glad, Kristen. I love it when a post resonates with me, and I am even happier when I know I’ve written one that resonates with others. You must have a darling boy 😉


  2. I love this. I love that you and your husband seem so in tune as parents. I think so often, thoughts of what could be changed in our parenting come to late…when children are grown and we’re stuck reflecting on our mistakes. To see, in the moment, your child and yourselves is big. Really big. I think, as a society, we could all stand to slow down more, rush less, abandon schedules more.

    • Thanks, Jessica! Ha, you should see us (me and hubby) normally…we’ve clashed ALOT on the whole parenting thing so this recent teamwork was major. Regarding catching our mistakes, we were just talking about this yesterday. We’ve made lots of mistakes in the area of our son’s scheduling, and I am always overcome by guilt. But finally I just had to tell myself that at least we caught ourselves…we didn’t let this go on for years. For the sake of my parenting self esteem I need to also feel good about just being self-aware. We really can learn so much from our children…


  3. Cecilia, replace Fred’s name with Little MIss’ and that’s what our mornings look and sound like here as well. It’s exasperating isn’t it? But I had that same conversation that you had with Max with My Guy – who knows maybe this is what a 4yo is capable of and this is what time and urgency means to them; we are the ones hurrying, scheduling, huffing, bustling and essentially missing out on the things that kids her age notice simply because they don’t do all those things.

    Our compromise was to give her more time to eat. Rather than expect her to finish in 15 minutes like us, we make room for 30 in our schedule. It’s good that we talked about it, but implementing it and remembering what’s important to her versus us can be a challenge when the clock just keeps ticking away at us every day.

    • Your response made me feel much better, Justine. We have to do that too — just make more time for eating because, really, wolfing down food in 15 minutes is an acquired talent honed through years and years of corporate life, I am convinced.

  4. Cecilia,

    Your morning routine sounds much like mine. I am eager to keep my daughter moving and reminding her, “We will be late. Hurry up. You don’t want to get a tardy slip, do you?” She likes to linger, while I rush. Your post reminds me that slowing down is not only important for me, but for my daughter as well. Thank you.

  5. Yup. You’ve got our mornings down. Lately we’ve been experimenting with letting our daughter be late (flip side of more autonomy.) It’s incredibly difficult for me to be late to anything (less my husband…cough), but we both decided that the only way to avoid the morning fights about getting out the door – and give her more control over her life – was to let her be responsible for getting places on time (or not.) It’s been an interesting experiment, not always successful, but I think it’s better for all of us.

    (And FWIW: totally agree that adult time is way to busy. Have been reflecting upon this for my own life.)

    Thanks, Cecilia. A thoughtful post, as always.

    Delia Lloyd

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