Are we all rushing through our children’s childhood?
Love is present, but somehow eaten away by this need of getting things done – many, too many things done on a daily basis.
Society encourages us to do more, faster, perpetually valuing the quantity over the quality of our life experiences.
One day I noticed it: a constant hurried attitude on the inside when I am with my kids. Change the nappy, help with the homework, ask about that friendship situation. Tick this box, tick another, then the next. Endless list of tasks. I was smiling often, and basically happy most of the time… but in a rush.
I asked myself: how many of the points on my to-do-list are essential? Which can I take off the list? Which are urgent but not so important? Which are important but not urgent?
How would I feel, in five years time, if I had done all of the urgent things but none of the important ones – and vice versa?
Meditation helped me noticing. This is what meditation does to you, on a basic level – it makes you notice things that were always there, but you weren’t able to put into focus.
I am an organised person. I like to make things happen. This, plus three kids aged from 11 years to 10 weeks, mean that my to-do list is long and imperative.
I am used to apply myself to my responsibilities with purpose, full military style.
My organisational skills come with a heavy price tag though.
Being kind to myself has never been easy to me. I criticise myself often and cruelly – are you familiar with the internal chatter that says “you are never good enough! Don’t forget again! Don’t be late!”?
I am familiar with this squeaky nasty voice. More often than I like to admit.
This is where conscious parenting stepped in.
I decided to try slow-parenting my kids (it is not a known style, don’t google it… I just made the word up).
I discovered that I can be organised and effective with a calm attitude inside.
It requires mindfulness and focus, and breathing.
A lot of breathing.
But I can do it.
You can too.
Before answering your six year old’s question, take few seconds to breathe and ground yourself if you feel that you are going on autopilot rush.
Before opening that homework folder with your little boy that just started school, take two real minutes to brew yourself a decent cup of a hot drink and inhale the smell, filling your lungs to their full capacity and then slowly breathing out the air to a count of ten.
Or simply sit on the sofa, close briefly your eyes and breathe from your nose focusing on the breath, just the breath, for one single minute.
One single minute of mindful breathing can make all the difference in our attitude, deepen our focus and help us being more open to our kids’ needs.
Surprisingly, you will find that you can cultivate this peaceful attitude of slow-parenting your kids, without actually becoming slow at all.
It could even make you faster!
That time that you spent to find your focus will come back to you, with interests.
A recent book by the fantastic Steve Biddulph, 10 Things Girls Need Most: To grow up strong and free, has a whole chapter on the benefits of being less busy and slowing down. The feeling of being fast and calm at the same time is a key ingredient to effective parenting: as a parent you stop being the victim of a tight brainless schedule, and your children finally feel that you are tuned in, fully present to the specific activity that you are doing with them.
The nasty internal chatter could become weaker and weaker, until one day you will be able to listen at its tiny voice and smile.
Slowly smiling, savouring the sensation of the corners of your mouth moving up and your forehead opening up and your chest raising slightly while your heart sweetly sinks.
Happy slow parenting, everyone.