Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slow down, you move too fast

Just watched an episode of The Baby Borrowers. In case you haven't heard about it, it's a reality show where 5 teenaged couples are temporarily taking care of other people's kids, to learn about parenting. Last week it was infants. Tonight, it was toddlers.

Had a discussion with my daughter about it as we watched.

Kids can be so frustrating sometimes. Watching these teens try to deal was entertaining, but it also reminded me of one of the things about the dominant culture that really concerns me.

Everyone is always in such a hurry.

The primary tool of parenting is patience. Whenever possible, just wait. Give them time. Let it go.

Especially with toddlers. They are so involved in their world, in whatever they are doing, heart and soul and body. Try to get them to do something else, something YOU want them to do, and they understandably get upset. Yet this frequently seems to surprise parents. I don't get it.

Think of your own life. You do what you do, feel what you feel, think what you think. You have our own plans and priorities. If someone were to walk in and tell you to stop what you are doing, right now, and do something they want you to do, regardless of your own interest, how would you probably react? I would guess that you probably wouldn't scream and cry or hold your breath, like a toddler might. Hopefully, you have learned more mature ways to communicate.

But you wouldn't be very happy about it. You'd probably be resistant, either outright refusing, or, as happens a lot, by being passive-aggressive.

Even so, it is culturally popular to do this exact thing to children all the time. Parents- and schools- want the child to follow their schedule. Often, without any attempt to explain or to sympathize.

Imagine, instead, if you lived your days at a more relaxed pace. Take your time. Play in the water. Enjoy the sunset. If there is something your child- or you- enjoy doing, do it. If they want to play in the mud, let them. Join them.

I learned this lesson when my younger sister was a baby. She was crawling on the kitchen floor, playing with a gum wrapper she found there. I felt obligated to take it away from her- it might be dirty. But when I took it from her, she started screaming, crying inconsolably. Fortunately, I figured out pretty quickly what could have taken me years to learn.

What business was it of mine if she wanted to play with a gum wrapper? Where's the harm in that? As long as I was watching her to make sure she didn't choke on it or anything, what right did I have to take it from her, and ruin her fun? Just because I wasn't interested in playing with it didn't mean it had no value to her.

I gave it back to her.
She smiled, and continued whatever it was she was doing with it, without my overbearing interference.

Another thing about this culture that is crazy-making, is what I call the "labor theory" of life. Something stressful happens. You try to get through it, hoping things will get easier. That particular stress lessens somewhat, but before you can do anything more than take a couple of breaths, you get hit with another crisis. Life goes from crisis to crisis, contraction to contraction, with only occasional momentary breaks. You keep hoping that things will settle down, even out, that you'll get through whatever the current crises are, and life will be better, easier, less stressful.

I've got news for you.
It won't.
THIS crisis might resolve, but there's always another one coming.

But if you live your life bracing yourself for each incoming crisis, you'll lose your mind.

Instead, slow down. Breathe. Every moment you possibly can, appreciate that moment for the small breathing space it gives you.

Is your house burning down? No? Good. Appreciate that for a moment. It might not always be true.
Are you currently in prison? If not, appreciate that.
Kids not screaming? Good.
Anyone bleeding? No? Great!
In each moment, appreciate the pain you don't feel, the argument you aren't having, appreciate everything good that is happening, however small, and everything bad that isn't happening, however large.

Sometimes, that's all the break you're going to get- so take it.

Appreciate your role in other people's lives, too- and give them a break when you can.

Cooperate more.
Communicate better.

What is that famous phrase?
"Live well, laugh often, love much."

Do that.
Right now.
At least for this one small moment.

1 comment:

Katherine Crocker said...

Thank you for that. It's exactly true, and shouldn't surprise me that you're the person coming out with a succinct articulation of it.

So, thanks.