Slow parenting – I wish!

HAMISH DENSTON
Last updated 08:54 25/09/2012

I read this opinion piece on Stuff that came from the Washington Post. It's all about something that's being called "the Slow Parenting" movement, which seems to be the American way of saying "something that a few people are doing and making sure they tell everyone about". The gist of it is that as parents, we're creating our own stress by filling our kids' lives with too many activities. This might be true in some cases, particularly with older kids, and it might come from the kids as much as from the parents in the case of extracurricular activities. With a toddler though, I'm not sure it applies exactly as detailed in the article.

Now I would absolutely love to slow down, and take everything at the meandering pace that a toddler seems to want to do it when you're in a hurry. Take an hour to get dressed, eat breakfast over the course of an entire morning after losing interest six times, that sort of thing. But that's just not possible when you're expected to actually turn up to work at a reasonable hour.

In our house, mornings can be a real lottery. My alarm goes off at six and I hit the shower. The munchkin will wake up any time from around then through to about quarter to seven depending on what sort of night's sleep she's had, and usually she's in our bed, having migrated during the night. Any later than that and we'll have to wake her up, and that's usually when we know the morning's likely to run less than smoothly.Dressing

There's little to the morning routine: getting her out of bed, dressed, fed and into the car. Still, you'd be amazed how long that takes when she's not interested in doing those things. We have to be out of the house at a certain time to optimise our travel time, making sure we get to work on time, so there's a real pressure to meet that obligation. A two-year-old has no concept of this, no matter how often we try to explain it to her in terms that she might understand.

This is a pretty awful tension to have, needing to put pressure on her and getting frustrated when she's not feeling compliant. It's worse when she's tired, and pushing things leads to tantrums which just eat up even more time. The thing is, unlike the suggestions in the slow parenting piece I linked to above, these are not optional extras that we tack on to our day to try to expand our child's horizons. These are things that we need to do in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Evenings are a little easier on the kid with some time for chilling while dinner is cooked. Keeping the focus on eating the meal once it's been prepared can be challenging too, but then it's more chilling until the bath is run. Getting her into the bath, getting her out of the bath, getting her to put her pyjamas on, all of these can sometimes take some time and some cajoling. The difference here is that we're trying to get her to do things for her own good: get clean, eat a nutritious meal, and get a good night's sleep. This doesn't change the fact that it can still become a battle of wills and add to that feeling of parenting being a constant struggle.

Do you wish you could slow things down and just go at your kid's pace for a while? Or does your child dictate a faster pace than you can keep up with? Maybe you've rearranged your life to achieve a more relaxed state? (And if so, how the heck did you do it?)

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