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.