One of the great things in my life is parenting my children. There have been seasons in my life though where I had missed the reality of that in my life. It wasn’t that my guys were hellions, for I can’t remember a day when I wished I had never had them, but there were sadly, plenty of times I lost track of the gift that my three sons are.
I get to spend the majority of my days with my now four-year-old son. I have a number of friends and colleagues give the patronizing “Oh yah.... how’s that going?” To which I am quick to reply “Parenting has been awesome!” and it truly has been because for the first time in 18 plus years of parenting I am experiencing the gift that only a four-year-old can give - the gift to slow down.
Huh? Slow down? With a four-year-old? That’s exactly what I mean. While he was a busy and active fellow and he doesn’t do the things I need him to do quickly nor efficiently, He offers me this as a precious gift. For example, before, if I had an appointment I would calculate my travel time and work right up to the last possible moment before I ran out of my office, to my car and off to my meeting. With my son, the preparation to leave takes about a half an hour.
Understand, it’s not rocket science parenting to get out the door but the simple task of getting our shoes and coat on was always delayed with “I need to go potty” or-and-sometimes “I don’t like these socks." Then there was “Dad, where do the clouds come from?” and “Oh look, a cat!” None of these things are bad or inappropriate for my four year old, but when combined with ‘we gotta get out the door for pre-kindergarten that starts in ten minutes, we have all the elements of a perfect storm!
In the not too distant past, this would increase my already high-stress level, and I would have become frustrated. He goes at a very fast pace - just doing things that do not always compliment my objectives. This is where my stress in parenting comes in. My son isn’t doing anything wrong; he is simply being four!
As I was reflecting on this common situation, I came to realize the precious gift of my four-year-old son - he is teaching me a healthier rhythm to life - to slow down a bit and keep things in perspective.
He’s four, and he is naturally going to be slower. He is not bad, inconsiderate, irresponsible. He is four.
I realize and accept this is the way it is and adjust accordingly - if it takes a half hour to get out the door, we start a half hour earlier.
If we are late, generally it’s really no big deal. I am not suggesting chronic tardiness is a good thing but is it really worth getting frustrated and losing our tempers for being two minutes late for pre-K? Nope!
As North Americans, I think we measure life by productivity, how much we accomplish, what we have produced, and this has some merit but also comes with some major side effects. In our effort to provide for our families and provide our kids with great opportunities to participate in sports, have the latest gaming system or whatever; we lose sight that in all our striving to acquire it, we overlook the cost of this driven lifestyle. In a very real way, our frantic pace diminishes what really matters in our children's lives - us.
How many times have we raced like mad to get our kids to sports, dance, school events, etc., all because we love them, want them to have fun and be healthy? But in the franticness of it all, if we hurt each other - “I am taking you to hockey because I love you, damn it! Now shut up and do what I say. Do it NOW!” Sigh. I am learning the hows of what we do are as important as the end goal.
My four-year-old is messing up that insanity that is my busy life, and you know what? I have discovered the world doesn’t come to an end. The things which need to get done, in fact, get done, and those things that don’t will be there when I have time. I have discovered that some of the things I thought were so important just aren’t and are certainly not worth losing my temper with my son just because he will not perform to the manic pace of my life. So in a sense, the having to do things with my son is like an oasis in my day. A welcomed oasis - a different rhythm in another wise crazy day. This is a gift - to slow down, accept his rhythm instead of trying to force him into mine.
Accept it. Plan for it and then relax in it.