The Battle to Slow Down…

I hear my children call for me, they need me. I put down the shiny screen, end a much needed conversation and my thoughts come to an abrupt conclusion for now. I drop what I’m doing and tend to their needs. The battle within me beckons to multitask because there never seems to be enough time.

“Mommy I need you, I’m sad, please help me.”

I walk in the room and my children naturally fall into my arms. I can provide calm and comfort. I am naturally able to talk through their concerns and comfort their fears.

My one year-old cries in the night because we are visiting a new place.  I hold him swaying back-and-forth rocking his body back to sleep. I look into his heavy eyes, my fingers are brushing his red hair and thoughts are racing through my own sleepy mind.

I think to myself...

“He is comforted by me.  He is still so small and yet growing-up so fast. This past year is already gone. He is my last baby. Am I doing a good job?  Am I a good mother? Do I appreciate him enough? What is enough?  Do I appreciate all of my children enough in this fast-paced life?” 

I look at this resting gift, a baby in my arms. I say a gentle prayer for this darling child and snuggle him back into his crib.

I am a mommy.  I make every effort to fix what is broken in my children’s lives. This is my calling and my work- it is natural. My instinct is to protect and resolve but my job is to guide and prepare.

Someday- I’m reminded by those who are wiser and have gone before- there will be “a last cry in the middle of the night, a last tear for mommy to help and a last sneak to sleep in the middle of our bed.

And when these days come, how then will I feel? Part of my heart aches when I contemplate these thoughts.

As my kids grow-up I pray they become strong, loving, giving men. And I know that as they mature my kids will naturally need me less and less. If I’m blessed I will have a lifetime of memories; bon fires, Disney Junior, waffle Saturday, soccer games, cowboy dress-up, Christmas morning, homework fights, long talks and of course my own middle of the night crib side thoughts, praying over my children.  

This journey is not coming, I’m in it right now. It is here. Being a parent is being present and real, it is hard and heartfelt. Many times my watch is conflicted because of time, resources and the demands of the world but my emotions always pull me in the direction of home.

When I look back on these years will I have any sense of regret?

Should I have said and done things that I never did? What should I have given that I never gave?

The last two years I’ve worked hard to be a reformer of seeing my children. To know them and relish in true appreciation of moments that I know I will never have back. The truth is, like most parents I have success and failure everyday. And each day I’m growing and transforming my own life to delight in every stage of childhood as it mixes and molds with a growing family.

I’m becoming cured of passing by worms, neglecting the specialness of choo choo observing and dandelion picking. Instead when a little voice calls me, I try and stop to study these mysteries with the little people in my family. I negotiate with Netflix binges, adult conversations and work schedules in exchange for fort building, wrestling matches, longer baths and requests for extra stories.

With less regard for schedules I take my child’s hand and I try. I do my best to make time to see what my children need. To smell, taste, hear, feel, hug and kiss because someday soon these will only be memories in my mind and I will be reminding another young mother of all the things I did and all the things I didn’t in the battle to slow down. 

Slowing Down Means

 Letting Them Lead

Letting my children lead means saying yes more. When the kids ask for my attention, I try my best to be less busy fussing or keeping up with details. I try to put aside what I’m doing and read the extra story at bedtime or play a board game before making-dinner. Slowing down means playing on the floor and listening over-and-over to the same stories they tell me about friends or school. It’s allowing the children to choose what we do next.

 Accepting Life is Messy

My kids are learning that life is messy and imperfect. Everyday there is a new opportunity to teach something, for my kids to develop healthy coping skills and strengthen their character. I try to be honest and talk to my children in an age-appropriate way about the things they experience because life is a series of moments- even the messy ones.  Taking time to slow down means making learning opportunities out of everyday situations. I can’t teach these skills running 100 miles per hour. It takes time but the rewards are valuable and I’m building lasting relationships with my children at the same time.

 Building Margin into our Schedule

My children love soccer; play dates and science club just like your kids. My meetings, volunteer responsibilities and social outings are important too. Making time for all of the events on the family calendar can be a challenge, especially as our family grows. But of all the requests- what my children really desire is time with me. Our hectic schedules can rob us of critical bonding time with the most precious people in our lives. Someday I know my heart will long to hear their little voices beg me to play Legos again or curl up in my arms. 

But they won’t need me anymore. At least not in the same way they do now. In my head I know this will be a blessing because I will have done my job as a young mother. They will prayerfully be on their way to being thriving thoughtful, committed, citizens.

The challenge for all parents will always be between the heart of the home and the duty of the world. Negotiating this battle can be at a great cost and struggle for some parents. Slowing down means making time and building margin into my schedule for what is most important, some days and weeks are better than others. We create time to be together.

 Turning off Technology

In one word, disconnect. Technology is supposed to make life faster, better, more connected. But especially with kids when technology is around we are more distracted, not as attentive, less focused and prone to multi-task. When we are connected to technology we are prone to interruptions, stressed out, our minds are elsewhere, we are at the grace of others and feel more pressured to respond. Slowing down means disconnecting our devices at dinner, during family time, during playtime or at key moments of the day not just for me but also for the kids.

 Focusing on People 

So many times when we gather with people we are not actually present. Our lives are busy and distracted because of children, traffic and endless to-do lists that occupy our minds. We do not focus on whom we are with or the conversations we are having. We are listening, speaking and looking at the other person but doing so only half-heartedly because our minds are distracted and thinking of other things.

Oftentimes we plan what we are going to say next so that we sound intelligent and engaged and this also happens when we interact with our children. Slowing down means connecting with people, appreciating and listening to them before we respond. We can practice this skill with our children and it can have a great impact on our relationships.

Final Thoughts

When life in the fast lane tries to control my motherhood and beats away at my ego telling me I’ve failed, that I’ve missed out on what I value the most or that I wasn’t perfect enough I remind myself to pause and discover again the life, love and strength within me that has always been there. I draw from the center of my heart where I store my faith  to get through the difficult times and I empower myself so that I can encourage my family and others.  I tell myself  to slow down, pause, reflect, breathe and look at these little people in my life who love me and think that I am the best. Then, I start again because I know that I am the best mom that I can be and my children always choose me!

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