I'll never forget it. I was running late to a parenting event and I was scampering around my condo searching for something to wear. As I rushed to the car with my then six-month old daughter, I pinched one of her chubby little thighs on the carseat buckle and she let out one of her silent cries. Parents, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's when your baby is so upset and looks at you with her eyes and mouth wide open for about seven seconds before the tears and screams appear. It wasn't pretty.
I stopped everything, held her and used every silly face I had in my arsenal to get her to giggle - and after ten minutes or so, I succeeded. So yeah, I was late to the event - but it didn't matter. What mattered was taking my time to ensure my baby was okay.
The sad truth is we live in a world of now and it's totally messing with us. People can get everything from dinner to a date with a few clicks of a mouse - so we feel the need to translate it to other things, including raising our children.
Yes there are plenty of instances (school, doctor appointments, flights, etc). when we need to be on-time, and I get that. As a general rule of thumb, I always tack on 45 minutes to every deadline (self-imposed or predetermined) if my kids are involved. In other words, if I know it will take me two hours to get somewhere, I plan for two hours and 45 minutes. Is that an earth-shattering strategy? Hardly. But I also know that "Hurry up!" to a toddler means, "I'm going to go as slow as humanly possible as I enjoy your rapid ascension to certifiable insanity." I try to avoid that kind of stress at all costs. Is it 100% foolproof? No. But what strategy is 100% foolproof when kids are involved? Exactly.
On the other hand, there are countless times where we feel the need to rush when it isn't really necessary.
- We need to rush home because little Johnny must take his nap exactly at noon or else his schedule will be completely messed up.
- We need to rush eating our dinner at a restaurant because little Suzy will have an epic meltdown if we stay a moment longer.
- We need to rush story time with the kids because we have to work on a project/mess around on social media/watch the big game, etc.
- We need to rush to a parenting event and pinch our baby's thigh in effort to get there on-time when everyone else will probably be late as well because...THEY ARE PARENTS, TOO!
Enough already. Slow it down.
I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but I know one thing for sure: the most valuable resource we have is time. It's the only resource we can't get back once we give it. When we rush to and from events, are we truly enjoying the time we have with our families? Do we stop and smell the roses? Do we miss out on valuable bonding time because we're worried about things that don't matter in the big picture?
Take a nap with the kids instead of doing the dishes, enjoy time with the kids at the playground without checking work emails, hug the kids for as long as they'll let you each and everyday, and embrace the fact that you're going to be late sometimes. The parent who says, "Man, I wish I played with my kid a little less today so I could get laundry done" will be the first. Eventually these tiny humans will be grown humans starting families of their own and the last thing I want is my memories of them as children to be a minefield field of "hurry up!" and "let's go!" sound bytes.
These precious moments won't last forever. We can spend our time rushing or we can spend our time cherishing. Choose wisely, because when it comes to time - you don't get any "do overs."