The other morning my son paused to lean down to pet the dog, just as I turned to him to remind him (again) that it was time to go. I wanted to run a few errands before dropping him off at school, and I was in a rush — just like I am every morning. You know how it goes: you are trying to beat the clock, fit it all in, and keep ahead of this damn rat race.
Always running around like this takes its toll on parents and before we know it, we are irritable, cranky the joy is stripped out of our day and we have no idea why.
I realize many of us don’t have a choice with work, school, volunteering, and fitting in much needed family and alone time. It’s easy to have a day planned — even a fun day — then have it crash and burn because there’s so much going on. Your head is spinning and you can’t be in the moment since there are so many other moments screaming for your attention.
I stood there that morning watching my son contentedly pet the dog, with his complete lack of awareness of time. He had no idea I was double-checking the contents of the fridge and wiping down the counter at the same time. He didn’t understand the importance of getting to the grocery store before school, or that I was still trying to wipe away crumbs from last night.
And that made me realize something: these things don’t matter as much as spending a few minutes with your 12-year-old dog who might not be here in a few months. He had all his attention focused on her, and it was something I hadn’t taken the time to do lately in my rush to get everything done.
I stopped what I was doing, and joined my son on the floor. An alarm went off inside me that said, “Slow the hell down,” so I listened to it. We sat on the floor and doted on our beloved, old dog.
Sometimes it’s okay to throw aside what we think might be important (errands, being early or even on time, getting it all done, etc.) and take a look at what matters — what really matters. We don’t have to cram it all in or get it all done. There are times when it’s okay to be late because your child absolutely has to pick the first spring flower, or watch a train go by.
What are we going to remember in life? The fact that we were constantly running around in a frenzy to get shit done? Or the times when our kids wanted to stop and partake in something that brings them joy?
The goal here isn’t to teach our kids to be inconsiderate and not be aware of anyone’s time. I don’t want them growing up thinking it’s okay to make people wait for them because they feel like what they are doing is more important. But I do want them to see there are times you can take a few moments to slow down, catch your breath, and marvel at the little gifts life is showing us because we don’t know if they are always going to be there waiting for us.
So that day, not only did I decide to skip the grocery store run, but we were actually a few minutes late for school. While being late isn’t something I make a habit of, neither is teaching my kids it’s not okay to live in the moment and relax to focus on what is going to matter later in life, and what memories are worth keeping. I’ve been failing them in that area lately. I have not been leaving enough gaps in their days to have time to do that, and I haven’t been doing it for myself either.
Shame on me.
That morning I decided things were going to change. I need to leave space for all of us to take the time to just be and enjoy a random , unplanned moment without worrying we are going to be late in order to do it — sometimes being late isn’t a bad thing, and this was one of those times.
And since leaving us all more room to just be, I’ve seen a change happen in my kids and myself. More hugs, more appreciation, more time to think and enjoy just how lucky we really are. And if we have to be late to something ever once in a while, so be it.