The slow parenting movement shows us that it’s time to take time and stop rushing.
As the end of the school or pre-school days rolls around, is your car packed with all the paraphernalia you need for the after school activities? Is there a collection of snacks waiting for the kids to gulp down while they change into their sports gear as you drive? And with one eye on the road and the other on the clock, do you drive with steadfast focus and determination so you’re not five minutes late for that 30 minute swimming lesson because you know – time, money?
And are you already planning where you’ll park so you have a quick get away for the next activity, drop off or pick up before you rush home for the homework drill?
Does this sound familiar?
Is it any wonder that by the end of the day all you can do is collapse with a glass of wine, The Bachelor and your trackies, as you mentally plan and prep for the next day?
For many of us, this is the reality of our children’s lives and indeed, of our lives. We rush, we nag, we stress, often with a car full of our kids and others – we’re taxi driver, task coordinator, and time manager. I only seem to remember about the ‘being a mum’ part as I settle down to watch the lesson or practice.
We may think we’re helping our children develop physical and social skills and to be the best they can be, but are our good intentions misdirected?
Are we actually doing more harm than good? Globally, many parenting experts are calling for us to hit ‘pause’ on the rushing and huffing and puffing we enforce on our kids. And to let them just be. And to just be kids.
Author Carl Honore in his best seller Under Pressure: Rescuing our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting has been advocating this for a long time. He suggests we need to slow down as parents, take the pressure off and to stop ‘project managing’ our kids. With a focus on ‘slow parenting’ and as an ambassador for the Slow Movement, Honore suggests that instead of ‘concerted cultivation’ with many organised activities scheduled, children should instead explore the world at their own pace.
There are children who love their extra activities and would be lost without them. But isn’t the point that less is actually more? Often the number of activities means there is little spontaneity and our children are leading disciplined lives controlled by the clock and by our belief that they ‘need’ the dancing lessons, the soccer academy, the swim squads or art classes for their own development and to get ‘ahead of the pack’.
The beauty of hindsight has helped my younger two sons, as I look back on the torment I put myself through trying to get their elder brother to activities from a young age that benefitted no one apart from those I paid the term fees to.
Baby music and movement, French lessons, art, gym…the list is long. Amazingly, now as a teen, none of those activities have helped his way in life in any way at all.
Following years of stress ferrying three children to different activities and the understanding that my stress was flowing through to the family, I decided to pull it all back this year, and to keep to the basics – soccer training, drum lessons, school bands, yet even with a consciously minimalist plan, the activities still add up.
But my house is calmer because I’m calmer. My younger boys walk home from school picking up treasures they find on their wanderings. They have ‘outside play’ before and during homework and I hear the games and the laughing. They can still swim, they’ll learn a language once they get to high school and they can hold their own on the soccer field. But they’re happier and their lives are more balanced.
Life has slowed down a little.
As we unconsciously race our children through their childhood, pushing them into the seriousness of life, it’s reassuring to know that instead of the constant mantra of “Hurry up” it’s actually ok and good for our kids to say ‘slow down’. And to let them do this.
How many activities do your children have? Do you feel it’s too many? How do you find the balance?