If you receive a request for “just a few more minutes” of snuggles, how do you respond? Do you:
A. Think about the pile of dishes out in the kitchen that needs to be washed
B. Twitch while considering the email from your boss that just hit your inbox and requires a response
C. Promise “extra” snuggles tomorrow so you can binge watch the third season of Orange is the New Black
D. Stay and cuddle, soaking in the feeling of those tiny hands intertwined with yours, their small head rooted in your armpit
If you said D– and if you regularly say D– you might be an unintentional slow parent.
A while back, I came across an article in the Boston Globe about slow parenting. A movement that’s gaining momentum, slow parenting limits the number of organized activities for parents and kids. Slow parenting is about stopping. It’s about letting your children play and watching them – truly watching them – while they do it. It’s about being intentional with what you do with your kids, who you do it with and resisting the need to over-schedule your life. It’s about saying “no” to a laundry list of organized activities and creating ways to engage – for your kids to engage – with the unexpected.
According to blogger Katherine Martinko,
The philosophy behind slow parenting is exactly what it sounds like – that kids need time and space to explore the world on their own terms; that they learn to entertain themselves, play outdoors, and enjoy hanging out with their families; and that they receive sufficient down time to process what’s going on their lives.
If you find yourself stressed from running from one activity to the next, there’s a good chance your kids pick up on that and it becomes their normal. There’s also a good chance to that it might hinder the development process. In the Boston Globe article, Carrie Contey, co-founder of Slow Family Living, said, “In early development, kids are still wiring. They need to have moments of doing and moments of being for integration to happen. If they don’t take space for integration that leads to meltdowns and overtiredness.”
Stress less AND avoid meltdowns? Sign me up.
Okay, so you’re reading this and thinking, “Shoot. Slow parenting? This is what it was like to grow up in the ‘70s and ‘80s!”– I hear you. For some reason, too many parents today feel obliged to keep our children entertained and active [GUILTY]. It’s almost as if we feel like not engaging them in specialized classes will set them behind their classmates. This is despite the fact that it’s completely counter-intuitive to how our parents approached child rearing. For most of us, Sesame Street was our Spanish class. The pinnacle of summer activity? That Pizza Hut personal pan pizza you received after finishing the summer reading program at the local public library.
But that seems to really be what slow parenting is all about. Not keeping up with the Jones’ who happen to have their kids in a cooking camp in the morning, a playdate at Maria’s in the afternoon and then to the Schmidt’s for a movie night sleepover… all to do it again the next day. It’s about having a “home” day and letting your kids dig through a pile of dirt in the backyard. It’s about letting them get bored and encouraging them to think of ways to entertain themselves.
So how can you/me/we adopt more of a “slow parenting” approach?
Establish a “no phone zone”: If you have a certain area of the house where the kids play or where you engage as a family, consider making it a no phone zone. This helps eliminate the urge to look at social media, email or anything that deters your focus from the brilliance (or disaster) unfolding before you.
Engage at the beginning or end of the day. Whether it’s over breakfast, dinner or as you’re snuggling down with your littles, establish a time at the beginning and/or end of the day where there are no distractions and you just talk. It seems so silly, but I recently purchased a $20 waffle maker. It has been a great motivator to have everyone around the table at breakfast and talk about what we each have scheduled for the day.
Just say no. It’s okay to send your regrets to a birthday party invitation that would be your third of the week. It’s okay if you don’t feel like having a playdate at the park with someone you just met. It’s okay if you don’t want to sign your kid up for swim and tap dance and flag football and reading class and French and outdoor survival school. Pick one or two activities and leave it at that.
Set an ongoing “date” with your kids. My eldest and I have dedicated every Wednesday as our special lunch day. Obviously this will change once she hits kindergarten, but it’s been a great way to sit down with her, listen to what’s happening in her world and engage with her one-on-one.
Go on more picnics. Why picnics? Because picnics require everyone to be seated outside and in a close setting. We have so many gorgeous public parks and vistas , it just lends itself to taking some time out to enjoy what the city… and your kids… have to offer.
Remember how “Ice, Ice Baby” started? “Alright stop. Collaborate and listen.” Who knew Vanilla Ice had also set the fundamentals for slow parenting when he rapped those ingenious lyrics?
Maybe you already do slow parenting and you didn’t realize you were such a trend setter. Or maybe you’re like me and regularly find yourself stuffing your schedule like Thanksgiving dinner. Regardless, it could be worth checking out.