I recently read an article about the trend of “Slow Parenting”. The article was not only discouraging; I found it a bit naïve. Maybe I’m just jealous. I can’t do it. I can’t get into the slow parenting.
I’m fast parenting. Like, wear your seatbelt.
My first two children are 27 months apart…then there is a five-year gap and then the last one. The first year that I had all 3 of them with those age differences I thought this was a huge disadvantage. Actually the first year I cried a lot. Oh hell…I don’t remember much of the first year. I do remember being exhausted and eating MANY chocolate croissants to make myself feel better and inconveniently dragging my big blue eyed boy around EVERY SINGLE MINUTE like a court ordered home monitoring bracelet…but way heavier. It felt like the movie Groundhog’s Day but without any of the fun parts.
But now I love the age difference. I mean, nobody has expressed any interest in me teaching a family planning class…but it’s working out nicely now because I get to enjoy them all in their own unique phases and stages. It’s a lot to absorb but they are fun and funny.
When I don’t want to beat them, they are my favorite people. But it’s not slow. Ever.
The Slow Parenting movement favors less structured activities and letting children explore. Explore like let them live like I did in the 70’s. Maybe you did too. I read a lot upside down in chairs, in the car, in a hammock, in a fishing boat. I stared at seed pods floating by through the air. In the 80’s in the summer I watched MTV videos until my eyes hurt, taking a 4 minute break to go outside and cut a bouquet of zinnias from the side garden. Sometimes I saw my friends but sometimes I didn’t. I had lemonade stands. I talked on the phone quite a bit. Every summer I nourished the fantasy that I would ‘transform’ over the summer and dazzle everyone in school in the fall after an incredible summer of physical and personal metamorphosis. Never happened.
My most out of the ordinary summer was in between sophomore and junior year of high school. I lived in Ohio and did a summer program at the School of Cleveland Ballet. Leaving for the summer was fairly common among my dance friends but unheard of among my school friends. But now…it seems like the ‘opportunities for summer extraordinaire’ for my kids are endless. Camps, classes, theme parks, public beaches, pools, water parks, travel, video games, service projects, volunteering, ways to earn money, a community triathlon , art shows, fun runs, PLUS the lemonade stand thing.
I once had a professor whose wise words come to mind over and over and OVER again. He said (paraphrasing here) the grand challenge of parenting isn’t to parent your kids in an effort to repair your own childhood. Don’t try to give them the perfect childhood that you didn’t get. (i.e.: I never got to take piano lessons and therefore I’m going to force you to take piano even if it makes you physically ill because then I can live vicariously through you and you better appreciate it, etc.) He said, the challenge is to raise them the very best way possible given their own reality.
I can’t get enough of those words.
My kids are growing up very differently than I did. The basics are similar. But there is a lot that is very different. We are a bigger family than my family of origin, my husband and I are not the people our parents were, the world of school and technology and activities and expectations are different. And while I don’t want to schedule the summer away…I need to have a plan. Big plans.
I love those old Country Time Lemonade ads with the tree swing and the haze of summer heat and kids outside running down the dock with inner tubes and the soothing voice over of nostalgia…The reality though…summer is so short. Phineas and Ferb claim we have 104 days of summer vacation. Our school district only has 91 days. 91 days of summer??? Plus we have to jam in a few teeth cleanings and haircuts and I suppose people are going to need to eat?
There needs to be time for camp and lemonade stands and going to the beach with friends and playing basketball in the driveway and planting/tending/harvesting cherry tomatoes. We have to get in some chores and some tennis and a lot of freaking out when the giant dragonflies land on our faces. There needs to be time for bike rides and stargazing and sparklers and playing at a new, never been to before park and many minutes of listening to the frogs. There needs to be a family trip with time in the car and reading Calvin and Hobbes and sidewalk chalk and outdoor movie night and badminton tournaments in the yard that end participants knees (that actually happened two years ago-the husband and the brother got competitive and let’s just say a knee replacement for my husband is now on the bucket list). There needs to be time with friends over and time without and long lectures from me about the great blue heron in the backyard. (I’m a little excitable over the great blue heron. I want to hug him.) There needs to be long walks and giant ice cream cones and the State Fair and being out on the water. We have to have bonfires, and friends over to grill out and cheer at soccer games and farmers market trips where I embarrass the children by buying far more blueberries than I can carry. And there has to be day where I teach them to roast a chicken. Yep. That’s in my plans tooMG_1143
We can‘t possibly do it all in only 91 days, can we?
You’re darn right we can.
I want to do it all. With them. THIS is part of the why of why I had the children. To show them the best of the world and try to prepare them for it and then sit back and watch them take it in. I can’t let everyone just free range it because at 6, 11, and 13…everyone will be free ranging in disparate directions. They are young for such a short shot and with the age gap…they only overlap in this house for 11 years. So I’m fast parenting.
So get ready kids-it’s my summer too. We are having a Red Bull Lemonade Summer. We are going to squeeze the life out of it. We are going to drink up summer while driving to and from soccer or sitting still at the campfire. We are going to bookend a beach trip with a pancake flipping contest and so many S’mores you are going to stick to your pillow. We are going to work our way through our summer list (which this year includes a family stay on the island in the BWCA) and fill up our bags with library books to devour like the world is ending. And we are going to do it fast. Before summer gets away from us. And before your collective childhood gets away from me.*
*There WILL be a couple of times in this 91 day period that I will want to run away from home. Get in my car and leave this crew in the dust. It happens every summer. Then the irritation melts away like a bomb pop on the 4th of July. Ooh-BOMB POPS!