He was a gruff, Greek man who gave driving lessons in Melbourne, Australia, and I needed lessons because my driving test was only a few weeks away. I was feeling woefully unequipped to take the test and feeling insecure about my ability to parallel park, among other things. He came to our house in Noble Park, asked me to drive around for 10 minutes, and then told me to pull over.
Your problem, he said forcefully, is your RUSHNESS! Where do you need to go? Why are you in such a hurry?
I wasn’t speeding, but he saw impatience in the way I drove. Maybe he knew he was talking about much more than just my driving. For as long as I can remember, I have always been in a hurry to get things done, to be at the top of a line, to get off an airplane, to be on time or even early. I rarely ever walked or strolled through parks or shopping areas. I was on the move, on the go, needing to get somewhere even if there was nothing really to be done. Getting somewhere, getting things done, these were like necessary, daily accomplishments, the little ways in which I felt good about myself at the end of a long day.
Having children has given me many gifts, and one of them is this: my boys force me to slow down.
I can’t even squeeze a lemon at my own pace anymore. Little hands want to help. Little hands need to help. It is good for him to squeeze a lemon and learn how to cook, it is good for me to step back, enjoy the way he enjoys lemons and slow down.
Trips outdoors don’t happen without a good 20 minutes worth of chasing a little boy around the house to get a jacket, rain boots and other outdoor gear on. When we are out, I rarely come home in the time I think it will take. We are usually out much, much longer. It is good for him to stay outside, to learn about nature, to soak up the sun, to delight in the beauty of the natural world, to just be in it. It is good for me to learn the same lessons. I can’t do it without slowing down, letting go of my plans for the day, releasing my need to stay in control of a schedule.
Wearing Baby, oh this is one of the most inconvenient, slowing means of newborn care I’ve ever encountered. It’s like being in a third trimester all over again, it makes it harder to play with Little Boy, it’s tiring. But Baby loves it, he leans back, looks in my eyes and grins. He knows he is safe, loved, protected, nurtured. It is good, right, perfect for him to know these things, and it is good for me to love him in a way he understands even when it’s inconvenient for me. It is good to be forced to physically slow down, to be limited, to know the truth – I have limitations. I cannot do it all.
A home with children in it has lots of messes – lovely messes, the messes of little hands that want to help, that want to explore, that want to create. So we take a big cardboard box, put it in the middle of the living room, cut windows out and a sun roof. The paint comes out, drips on the floor, but he puts his pots and pans inside and makes me an egg. It is good for him to know that in our home he is free to explore, to learn, to create. He is free to make messes (and clean them up) and be as messy as he wants. Our house is a place where imperfection is celebrated. And it is good for me to know that I am not the sum total of a clean, orderly home, that there is much more to having things “look good” and “look right.” It is good for me to slow down, let days unfold and let the messes unfold for behind every one of his messes and mine, there is a nugget of gold, the little glimmer of what he was made to do, who he was made to be. What I was made to do, whom I was made to be.
Slow down. There’s no rush. You can be late. These are words I tell myself regularly at home, in the car, when we are out. I give myself permission to slow down and do less, and in doing so I find that my soul lives with more freedom and my children do as well.
This post is Day 18 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)