My friend and editor recently asked my permission to use one of my blog articles for a piece she was writing about “slow parenting in a slow economy.” Apparently, what I’ve been doing has an actual name. In her article, she cites author Carl Honore’s books, In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyperparenting. It seems that in this age of speed and trying to do more things faster than ever, a new movement has been born. According to Honore, the Slow Movement is “a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
This notion of slowing down has really been on my mind lately. Due to circumstances that were a bit beyond my control, I have a little extra time on my hands, and the difference that time has made in my quality of life is really astounding. As I’ve mentioned before, the time I spent with Harper Lee during her first two or three years were wonderful. We took walks, picked flowers and baked cookies on a regular basis. Somewhere along the way, however, things began to speed up. Preschool began, I had another baby, kindergarten began, soccer practice started, I picked up a few additional classes, my freelance work began to increase; before I even knew what was happening, I was rushing out the door in the morning, yelling more often, feeling overwhelmed and fatigued, and cookies… well, cookies just didn’t happen. Suddenly, I didn’t feel as happy, and I bet my kids were feeling the same way. But with the forced slow down, I have returned to my happier and healthier days. Like most things, I can see this with the benefit of hindsight.
I’ve also been thinking about this topic because a very dear friend of mine is living in such a state of fast-forward, I’m afraid she may spiral out of control completely. She does not have the benefit of hindsight, and while I’ve made my case to her on numerous occasions, she also has the driven personality that often makes slowing down difficult. I see her perpetual state of exhaustion, her lack of patience, and quite frankly, her anger, and my heart bleeds for her. At this very moment, her children are growing and changing, and she’s missing it. I realize this sounds judgmental and critical and probably a little self-righteous, but she’s not just some random woman I see in carline. She’s my friend, and I know her and her life well enough to see the damage her need for speed is doing to her life and the lives of her kids. If you’re too tired to go for walks, snuggle with your kids, drive the car or bake cookies, you’re too tired, and something needs to change. I recognize that now.
Slow living is just another term for living. Maybe endless dance lessons and private tutoring sessions and ball games and activities are how many people want to live. I mean, I love sports too. I want to run and go to track meets, and I want to watch my kids play soccer and learn the many benefits of physical fitness and team participation. I want them to be well-rounded and to have experiences they will cherish for a lifetime, but I want some of those experiences to be quiet, simple experiences that don’t require a registration fee or a weekly schedule that we all must live and die by. I want the classes and teams that we do sign up for to mean something and to not be one more thing we have to check off our list before we can drag ourselves home at night and collapse into bed just to get up the next morning and start it all over again.
I want to really live, and when my days are almost done, I want to look back and remember little bouquets of yellow daffodils and warm cookies fresh from the oven.
To see Karen’s article on Slow Parenting, check out the online version of Piedmont Parent magazine at http://www.piedmontparent.com. Her article can be found in the Piedmont Parent Blogs.