Ok, so you know all those people who (you may feel like punching) when they come up to you and say "it goes so fast" or "cherish every minute, they grow up so fast"? As annoying as it is, I am starting to see that they are telling the truth. And not only that, but I believe that they are PLEADING with us parents of younger children to take stock, to slow down, and to pay attention. They are warning us to get it right. Maybe they were too busy, too focused on a career, too worried about keeping up with their friends, or fixed on the past, or too focused on the future to cherish what was right in front of them. My opinion has softened regarding these stranger interventions (that inevitably happen in the line-up at the supermarket when my kids are helping themselves to the ring pops and looking at some superstar's "junk" on the cover of a magazine)...because I realize these people are like messengers from the past, warning us of what's at stake. Time waits for no one, especially not parents. We need to get our "poop" together and make the present count for our children, before they are hitting the open road with their old spice body spray and a copy of a Jack Kerouac novel tucked under their arm. How do we do it? I don't have answers, but I sure am looking for them. Everyone is writing books, blogs, and getting advice on how to be better, faster, more organized, richer and smarter, yet it seems to me that all we are managing to do is make parenting more complicated and confusing. We try to keep up with the Jones', but yearn deeply to slow down, remembering "a simpler time". But it is almost impossible to live a simple and slow lifestyle in a society that has no time for simple and slow. I've been thinking about the "olden days", and trying to see where we've gone wrong. I joke about my "70's parents", and how they just let us wander around in the forest at our cabin, while they visited with friends and drank wine. We were allowed to go just about anywhere, we traveled in a pack of neighbourhood kids. We explored, built forts, worked out our own problems, sent bullies away from the pack, because we knew how to do it, we shook off a scrape and kept running. We had so much fun, and so much more freedom than I give my kids. And our parents also had a chance to enjoy life, friends, laughter, and peace. Community. These days, I am challenging myself to let my kids go out and wander the forest with their pack of friends, but it scares me. I hover outside the forest, twenty feet from the path they are on, ready with my cell phone and bandaids. I'm not relaxing, I'm not having a laugh with the other Moms. I am too busy worrying about how my kids are acting, (Are they being polite? Are they saying bad words? Is one of the other kids teaching them something bad? Is there a bear? Poison ivy? A creepy person in the woods?) WHY and WHEN did we stop having fun? When did life get so complicated? Why do we think our kids need to play every sport and have every i-electronic device? We talk a lot about family time, and outside time, and we all read boat-loads of parenting books that tell us how important these early years are for our children. But, even still, I don't think we are getting it right. We are a confused generation of parents. How do we slow down and speed up at the same time? How do we give our children freedom, and protect them from the world at the same time? How do we teach them to appreciate nature, but prepare them for the world of technology at the same time? How do we relax, slow down and laugh, but succeed, earn and provide at the same time?
IT is the question of our time. We are lured by the flash, speed and swagger of what our materialistic world claims to be a "full" life. We are encouraged by Oprah,Martha and Gwyneth that we can and should "have it all" (baby+career+good body+lots of money+social life, plus,plus,plus,plus…you get what I mean). Oh yah, our lives are full - of shiny things, and "stuff" made in China. We have filled our homes up with polyester, polypropylene and plastic, and emptied them of laughter, love, faith, and community. Some people make it work, but for most of us, chasing after it "ALL" just seals the lid on our pressure cooker, and makes us crappy people and crappy parents. I am here today to tow the slow line, and advocate for the parents who are willing to take a step back in order to nourish their families true needs, and maybe, if they manage it, get in a shower, a work out, a drink with some good friends or a nap. It is OK to peacefully bow out of some aspects of your life, in order to seek after what really matters. Maybe it's time to say no to whatever is holding you back from slowing down and paying attention. Maybe it's time to say yes to the kids when they want to run barefoot through the forest (even if there might be poison ivy). Maybe you don't need to buy that new shiny thing. Maybe instead, all you need to do is invite some friends over (real friends, who you don't have to clean for), kick off your power-pumps, share a bottle of wine, and let the kids run amok. Slow down, sacrifice the bling, play with your babies, cherish the mess,turn off the i-stuff, take the pressure off, and remember what that crazy lady told you in the supermarket; They grow up so fast, cherish every moment.