“Secret of Adulthood: the days are long, but the years are short.” Gretchen Rubin
“Secret of Parenthood: the days are long, but the years go by exceedingly fast” Diogo Carrico
I am a privileged father, as most are, but in my case for having been the primary carer of my 1st born during the period she turned one. It was one of the most rewarding and extraordinary experiences of my life and I thank Catarina for trusting me with her everything for 4 months.
Today, looking at photos from that period I am overwhelmed by oddly miserable and clichéd questions: “She’s so different, how did my baby grow so fast?”, “Where did the time go?”, “It was just a few months ago, wasn’t it?” Not really, it’s been over two years.
Recently, Catarina pointed me in the direction of a very interesting concept – Slow Parenting. From what I could grasp, it’s in its essence, a parenting style promoting quality family time – though I emphasise you can’t have quality before having quantity.
The Slow Parenting approach encourages the child to take the time to discover every twig, flower and rock along the way without being rushed by our “adult needs”. It’s a parenting style that takes an active interest in the child’s immediate and seemingly insignificant interests.
I recall some dialogues with my eldest along the lines of:
Me: Come on Mimocas, hurry up, we’re already late!
Her: Look daddy! There are some bugs here.
Me: Oh yeah, you’re right. How nice, come on now, get in the car. We got to go.
Her: Ok, I’ll just pick this flower!
Me: (Silent, but puffing both cheeks and holding the car door in a restless wait)
Thinking back on it, and other such examples, 5 minutes spent looking at bugs and answering consecutive “Why” questions, would have been preferable to a stressed house leaving. By rushing her, I prevented her from learning all that that leaf and I had to teach her. By rushing her, I didn’t permit myself to be curious, imaginative and learn something new.
My girls are human beings seeing the world for the first time, discovering an environment where everything is new and a wonder worthwhile contemplating. I feel like that when I go to a place like the Great Barrier Reef but sometimes, as a parent, I play the part of the guy who has lived his entire life with the reef as his backyard.
I have been (re)learning how to view the world with a new pair of eyes… theirs. A world where every flower is a phenomenon, every little bug a new species, every scent a wonder and every sound a singularity.
I have been implementing this slow parenting approach by giving regular, absolute focus to my girls’ interests and the results have been immensely gratifying. I have been receiving more flowers, smiles and kisses. I have also been learning a lot about the fauna and flora in my backyard.
Years ago, while exercising my thumb in the unproductive activity of channel-surfing, I came across an episode of the TV series “Malcom in the Middle”. The scene involved a dialogue between the parents that has stayed with me since then.
The dad is complaining on how the kid is acting like… well, a kid and wishing him to grow up. Mum’s reply is a great piece of advice that I try to implement in my life, particularly with my girls – “Darling, don’t wish the time away”, she said.
Thinking about these words, I’m led to consider that one who feels like the dad does, is one who’s living in the future, an idyllic future and not really getting the best out of what the present moment is offering. I truly believe that this father, will in the future, have far more regrets than this mother.
Be gratified with, and suck the marrow out of the now – wishing for the future to be here soon, will soon make it the present and if the present is made of wishing for the future… then one’s stuck in a vicious circle where the now does never exist.