Sunday, April 19, 2009


Slow parenting, that is. A friend sent me this link about the movement, alone with the comment, "I think I like's almost like, if we give a name to it, that gives us permission to create (or NOT create, but allow to happen) a way of parenting that is good for parents and kids all at the same time!"

I replied: I love this. Of course, I also feel an extreme amount of tension and pressure. And, with Ellie's diagnoses, I have to do things differently than I intended to. But not that differently. A good reminder! (And also the way I was raised once upon a time.)

"It seems to me that today we are speeding up children too much in some ways (academic hot-housing, for example) while slowing them down too much in other ways (not letting them walk to school alone until they’re, um, 23)."

But with Ellie, I've found that I do a lot of things differently than I expected to do, as a parent. I wanted to allow my kids a lot of independence . . . yet Ellie still can't do a lot of the tasks that many toddlers can do for themselves, like dressing, or walking all the way around the block. I've had to adapt.

I wanted to let my children choose their own passions, regardless of whether or not they were "cool." But kids like Ellie have such a hard time fitting in anyway; parents of kids with disabilities talk about the importance of figuring out what other kids the same age are listening to, watching, wearing, doing, and exposing our children to those same things so that they have a common frame of reference with their peers, so that they don't stick out . . . unnecessarily? In avoidable ways?

It's fabulous to encourage individuality in children. But most children are influenced by - or at least aware of - subtle societal pressures. Some children . . . are not. They just notice when they're excluded, left out, different. And they feel the hurt. So if a parent can help ease a little of that, shouldn't I?

There's a recent post on the Power of Slow blog called Planning the Space in Between that suggests another interesting way of looking at how we schedule our lives.

I love the idea of slow. I feel suffocated by our current schedule, in which Ellie has preschool 5 mornings a week, then both girls have gymnastics on Saturday morning, and we have church on Sundays. Both girls still take afternoon naps. This leaves us . . . basically no unstructured time at all, other than the little pieces before and after dinner. (Except on Wednesday, when there's music class, and so forth.) I hate that.

But-but-but. Ellie needs more physical activity in her life, and we're having a hard time getting her to enjoy and engage in exercise. Might not the special needs soccer association be a good idea? Or the Kids Enjoying Exercise Now program? Or a special needs tae kwan do program? And what about foreign language classes?

How will my children be able to compete with children whose parents are giving them every class, lesson, sports experience imaginable, practically from birth? Perhaps they won't. And perhaps that's OK.

Thinking of slowing down . . . Ada's sick. "I'm not sick! I'm happy!" she insisted with a weak but adorable grin at dinnertime, despite her fever. Her first real illness, less than 2 weeks after weaning. Coincidence? Regardless, we'll be taking things more slowly for a couple of days. I, for one, am looking forward to it!


Anne said...

It's tough, especially when you live in a metropolitan area with lots of opportunities. I tend to limit my kids to one sport at a time and all have to play a musical instrument (I think we'll end up with piano for Nick but won't start for a couple more years.) We've tried a lot of different activities over the years, some we've dropped because the kid wasn't interested others because they were just not that convenient to us as a family. A number of activities are associated with or sponsored by school which makes them easier.

As far as not starting activities earlier being an advantage, as my kids have grown, I haven't seen that. A lot of the stars of say little league burn out by high school and the stars in high school weren't stars in little league or didn't play at all.

Shawna said...

I think that kids, whether typically developing or with a disability, need time to just be kids. Even if it means vegging out in front of the TV for a little while. I let my kids lead me when it comes to their activities. My oldest, 16, jumps into whatever sounds good and sometimes has too many things going on. But we quickly learn what she truly enjoys by what "sticks." My other one, 9, has to be drawn into activities. My hardest thing with her is that she wants to do the athletic things like special needs soccer, but because of her disability, she is not always able to do them. She took to swim lessons like a fish, though.

I'm glad to see that people you talk to who have kids with disabilities are trying to keep them at a interest level with their peers. I am a "Case Manager" for kids with disabilities, and I cringe inwardly when a parent tells me that their 14 year old son still watches and enjoys Barney. I understand that he enjoys it, but I want the parents to expose and the child to other things that are more age appropriate, and expect the child to enjoy it. It may take longer to get to the enjoyment stage. But that's ok.

Sarahlynn said...

Part of my problem is that I really like the Pixar movies (Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 1 and 2) and I don't like (or am not interested in) a lot of the programming for older kids, like High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Princess-everything, etc. And the superhero movies are just so violent. I think we'll try Harry Potter (Sorcerer's Stone, book and movie) in another year or two. In the meantime, I'm thinking Disney Fairies. Other than skimpy clothes, what's not to love about fairies? I love fairies! Ada's totally into the whole Tinkerbell thing (book, movie, doll, wearing wings, talking about fairies, etc.) and I think it's worth encouraging for Ellie, too. I hope. At least fairy stuff is good for fine motor development!

Anne, I like your approach. I had something similar as a kid, and both of my kids now have one sport and music class (plus school and all of our church and friend activities). I think it's within the parenthetical - the things I think of as background/givens - where the clutter accumulates. And thank you for the encouragement!

Shawna, I really really appreciate hearing all of that.