First off, yep, I’m comparing myself to Hitler. Favorably though? I hope? Anyway, it was the first title that popped into my head, and frankly I’m terrible at titles, so I’m going with it.
I don’t think of myself as a super rushed person. I mean, one of my favorite things about living in NYC was how everyone understood what speed you should walk at, and one of my least favorite things about going on walks with my dad is he insists on strolling everywhere, but that’s really just basic physics. Legs are supposed to extend fully, people!
But in general, I don’t consider myself to be the kind of person who’s always going a hundred miles an hour. In fact, I generally pride myself on being able to stop and savor individual moments as they come.
And then I had a toddler.
Holy. Shitballs. DO YOU KNOW HOW SLOW TODDLERS ARE?! You’ve got a baby, and yeah, sure, they’re slow, but only because they have limited mobility skills! And you basically carry them everywhere, so it doesn’t really cramp your style. And then they learn to walk, and you’re all, “My freedom! Finally! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my aching entire upper body!” You have visions of going on nature walks, of your kid enjoying the bounty of the world on his own, while you smugly sip a latte and think back to the days when you needed a stroller. You have dreams, man.
And then you try to take that nature walk, and you run face-first into crushing reality: This is super annoying.
If I like to think I’m the type of person to stop and smell the roses, my mom actually is. She once blocked an entire commuter train on the subway during rush hour because she genuinely didn’t notice her backpack was in the way while she eagerly people watched from the doorway. On vacation she wanted to bring home about a pound of river rocks, because each one was so uniquely beautiful. She’s awesome.
So I was lucky enough to grow up with a parent who would totally sit and examine lichen with me for 20 minutes. I won’t claim she didn’t get bored, but she’s got that endurance for the long haul, and when you go for a “walk” and an hour later you’ve only traveled ten feet, she hasn’t even noticed, because there are so many cool things to do. And that’s so obviously, visibly valuable to kids, to be allowed to explore at their own pace, with an involved adult who’s right in there with them, that I never thought I would have any problems being that mom too.
BUT SERIOUSLY, DO YOU KNOW HOW SLOW TODDLERS ARE?!
They make snails look speedy! Caterpillars look fast! There are molds that grow faster than they move! Have you ever tried to go for a walk and only gotten ten feet in an hour?!?! AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!
Yeah, it turns out I am not that kind of person. I need a destination when I walk, I need a plan of action for the day, and I don’t like to wander off and leave projects half-finished. My moment of revelation came when I found myself faced with an 18 month old who was literally hugging a tree. Hugging it! Like, he spent so long examining the bark of this tree he fell in love with it, and needed to give it a hug! And as he was in the throws of his arboreal affection, all I could say was, “Hey Kraken, if we go inside right now I’ll let you watch as much Elmo as you want!”
I was literally trying to get my child to stop loving nature, go indoors, and zone out in front of a screen.
Later, once I made peace with my inadequacies as a mother, I did some serious soul-searching, and came to the conclusion that I just don’t like kid-speed. I hate running in circles for no reason (or any running really – I’m not against playing, fun, swinging, sliding, dancing, or any other form of exercise, I just really hate running). And then, when they stop and want to stare at a rock for five minutes straight, I’m bad at that too. I find it highly unreasonable that my spawn wants me to appreciate gravel literally every single time we come across any. Even if it’s two steps from the last gravel we saw.
Gravel is just not very interesting. You heard it here first.
So. I know this is good for my kid, but it’s soul-witheringly boring for me, and makes every muscle in my body long to do something instead of sit quietly. I also know my therapist would probably point out the meditative qualities of stopping and being in the moment, and how the benefits of meditation to your brain are prodigious. And, I mean, yeah, I’d agree with her, buuuuuuuuuut… really? There are so many other things to do with life besides meditate. Like fill yourself with existential dread as you plan ahead for the parent-teacher meeting next week. Or thinking about that time in 7th grade when you peed yourself in the locker room after gym.
My point here is that seeing this as a welcome excuse to lightly meditate while focusing on Being In The Now is very well and good, but not actually enough incentive to get me to sit still while we carefully pick every leaf off some poor unsuspecting plant.
Then I figured it out. What’s the one thing I hate more than toddler speed? Entertaining toddlers. Coming up with a new thing every 20 minutes all day long for those attention spans is awful. Trying to plan an educational and engaging day for them is an effort in painful futility. Basically, it’s just the worst, is what I’m saying here.
SO. If my grubbling is busy taking inordinate amounts of time to inspect this mud, then that’s a whole bunch of time that I don’t need to come up with something for us to do! I’m off the friggin’ hook! I can do whatever I want with my mind, because it isn’t entirely consumed by trying to remember Tips For Two Year Olds on Pinterest! Oh, happy day!
Fast-forward a year or so, and I’m the QUEEN of sitting still, the princess of silent fascination, the tzarina of gravel. I will pretend to eat make-believe mac & cheese every minute or so until the cows come home. Because it’s easier than coming up with anything else.
And it turns out that, sometimes, living at toddler speed is actually kind of nice.
Just don’t tell my kid I said that.