As I watch my children grow older and more responsible every day, month, year…time fascinates me more and more. What I have realized is that time is really far more about perspective than I would have imagined. When I was younger, the future loomed ahead as an endless supply of time and yet I rushed to get as much done at the same time as possible. By the time I was 25, I was in graduate school, working full time, married, and expecting my first baby. All at once…you know…you wouldn’t want to waste any time. Now I look back and realize that any ONE of those things is a lot for someone to take on.
At 27, I had finished my MBA and had a 2 year old and a newborn and started my own company. Having a second child so close to the first taught me more than I ever learned in school about patience and time management and gratitude. I learned that I better take a shower before 6 am or it was not going to happen that day. I learned that sitting with a sleeping baby in your arms was one of the very best ways to spend time…that you shouldn’t be thinking about all the things that you could get done if you put that baby down…that this was truly paradise in this moment, smelling their sweet baby head, feeling their warmth, knowing that they are safe.
One of the boys had a sensory perceptive disorder. If you are not familiar with this, it involves things like screaming that the tags on their t-shirts or sweat pants or the seam in their socks are causing them extreme pain. It means that if you put the left shoe on before the right shoe, they might take both shoes off and throw them at your head as hard as they can. It meant wearing shin guards in soccer on the outside of the socks and explaining to the coach, “yes, I’m aware that they are usually worn on the inside of the socks. We’ll be wearing them on the outside for now.” For us, it was coupled with a significant speech delay and fine motor delays. Again, I learned not to rush. Slow down, Mama. Let’s get this right. You wanted this child more than anything in the world, now give him the time and attention he needs from you. I cut the tags out of every article of clothing. I bought the softest cotton tops and pants I could find. I discovered, through trial and error, that if I sang the exact same song every single day in a very calm, happy voice while I turned the socks inside out so the seam would be on the outside instead of on the inside, and put the socks and shoes on in the same order, we could all get dressed and out of the house without too much drama. There was speech therapy a few times a week and occupational therapy once a week. We popped packing bubbles and cut magazines into confetti to help with the fine motor. We danced and touched things and listened to music (not too loud, Mama!!). And I took big breaths when I wanted to go faster.
Parenting slowed me down in the very best way possible. I learned to see the moment. I learned to breathe. I focused on what was most important. If I had tried to rush that child with a sensory perception disorder, we would not have gone faster. We would have been delayed by temper tantrums and screaming (by both of us) and hurt feelings. Going slower meant arriving at the goal (getting dressed) much faster, in fact. Sometimes I had to reach deep into my toes to have enough patience, but it was always worth the effort.
And yes, he learned to speak. And yes, I learned to advocate for him through the Board of Education and health insurance hoops. And yes, he no longer requires me to sing to him or to cut the tags out of his clothes to keep him from crying. And yes, I remembered to cherish the moments and not to rush too much. The gift of time is truly magical.
These lessons carried over into their teen years (for me…maybe for them) when my patience was tried again and limits were tested. That breathing I had learned while putting on the inside out socks was very useful while negotiating curfews and keeping lines of communication open so that we had real conversations and not just “fine, yes, nothing.”
Slowing down and breathing also left space for me to be grateful. Patience gave their curiosity room to grow. Time together bonded us in a way that is almost difficult to believe unless you have seen us together, just being. I’m so very thankful I learned to slow down. I’m so grateful for the lessons that my children have taught me. I’m so happy that they are in my life and that they know they are my greatest gifts.