Slow down! I’ve said those words often since embarking on parenthood 13 years ago, with varying meaning over those same years. I’ve spoken them to myself, my children, and to my life itself. Slow down.
Like that works.
Slow down! Those words never fazed the contractions indicating birth was the only way out of nine months of pregnancy. The time had come, and the pain was immense and far more than I ever imagined it would be. No amount of breathing could buy me some more recovery time between those enormous forces of my body. Soon enough, my older son made his entrance, my admonitions to my body be damned.
Slow down! With a first child, I think many of us spend time thinking of what will come next. Watching for first smiles turns to listening for laughter. Coaxing the new crawler leads to out-held hands encouraging first steps. I welcomed his development, eagerly awaiting each new ability and the world it opened for him. I was a bit wiser by my second. I knew those steps led to freedom for him and worries about him, since as his dangers grew as his reach into the world extended. Slow down, I silently urged, knowing this child was my last, wanting my baby to be “baby” a bit longer.
Slow down! Two boys, now 13 and 8, have heard that phrase yelled across parking lots and playgrounds, softly spoken when they’re consumed with anger or sorrow, and simply stated as they bolt to eat so they can hurry back to their plans. Sometimes it’s their safety I seek as I urge them to take the time to apprehend the dangers around them. Other times, it’s an encouragement to keep their minds in control when strong emotions threaten to throw them too far off course. Gently said, with love, never demanding their feelings to stop, just encouraging them to take the time to see where those unchecked emotions may be taking them and encouraging them to regain some control. And that sometimes works.
Slow down! I’m often-in-motion both physically and mentally, I rarely heed this advice myself. I move rapidly from morning chores, to email checks, to homeschooling lessons, to see friends, to mow/weed/sweep/vacuum/cook/clean/lather/rinse/repeat. I complete my phone calls while scrubbing sinks, pulling weeds, and sorting laundry. I rarely sit until it’s time to write. Then my mind engages fully, and I follow its meanderings, instructing my thoughts to slow enough for me to sort them out and type them down. When I try to sit, to meditate, to pray, to just be, I struggle with what I should be doing (as if simply being isn’t enough), what must be done, what isn’t happening when I allow myself to truly slow down.
Like all of us, I’m bound by this temporal world and linear time. Like all of us, I often yearn to stop the clock and linger at a moment, caressing a sleeping child’s cheek or inhaling the heady scent of the spring lilacs. These moments, gifts from the universe, can’t be slowed but can be attended to fully. Childbirth, death, and the smaller births and deaths of life likewise can’t be slowed, skipped, or sped, but simply must be. These, too, if attended to, can be appreciated as the gifts from the universe that they are. I’ve yet to fully learn this lesson, but, as is often said, knowing is half the battle. For now, I’m trying to attend and to accept the change time brings. And that’s a “slow down” that will make a difference.