Slow Parenting for a Slow Economy

Karen Murphy of shares her story about children and learning at a slower pace.

Work it, Mom!

Slow Parenting for a Slow Economy

-Karen Murphy,

a mother and her son reading a bookTurns out all along I’ve been a slow parent. Um, not short-bus slow (oh come on, I have a kid who rides one … I can say that) though I’ve had my moments of that, too. I mean SLOW. As in, not sweating stuff. Breathing. Enjoying.

When my older son was a baby I got the usual pressure: did he sleep through the night yet? can he walk? can he talk? drink from a cup? roll over? (IS HE NORMAL? … or really, the unspoken “Is he BETTER than normal, because normal isn’t good enough?”) The pressure came from everywhere: my own childhood experience, friends, my parents, books I read. It was huge, that pressure.

But Nathaniel was slow to talk, nearly three before he said much (in English, anyway: he had a rich vocabulary of Nathanielese that he insisted on teaching me). I decided to go against my ingrained impulse and to NOT teach him to read. I read to him constantly, and told him stories, and we talked about everything under the sun. Reading came to him at 8, incredibly late by the standards of my childhood family (I was 3 or maybe 4 and don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read).

Today Nathaniel is a straight-A student in 7th grade. (So nyah, dad.)

But we’re the odd family. There’s a huge pressure today to sign kids up for activities, and once they start T-ball or dance or music lessons at 3, there’s no way to stop. You’re in for life. There’s huge pressure to keep moving, keep advancing. T-ball this year? Fine, but next year is Little League. All his friends are going!! How can you opt out? And then there are the cultural enrichment activities: museums, theaters, art. How can you deny your child these rich experiences? How will she ever succeed, get ahead in life?

That’s where Slow Parenting comes in.

Kids grow up, and even left more or less to their own devices, they learn stuff. It’s hard to stop them. They don’t need toddler flash cards, or Baby Einstein, or LeapFrog. They do need good food, outdoor playtime, and time enough to chill.

And guess what? The things kids need most come pretty cheap. Frugal is the new cool. Libraries have books, too, and come way cheaper than Amazon’s. Board games are total fun and are way cheaper than video games. Museums have free or discounted admissions. Parks are completely free, every day. A bike is a solid investment, but even those can be found cheap on Craigslist or Freecycle. A walk around the block? Also free. Gardening together is a great activity and has its own delicious rewards. Learning a craft together (kids can knit, too!) or cooking is both useful and fun.

And as parents, backing off and chilling has its own rewards. Time. Appreciation (remember when you could just sit and sniff the top of your baby’s head for HOURS?). Money. The joy of watching the small changes. Laughter.

Slow down. Breathe. Chill.

(Interested in learning more on the Slow Movement? To learn about ways to enhance and enrich the connections in your life, save money by slowing down and enjoying what there is, there’s a whole site devoted to all aspects of it.)

Are you a slow parent?

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