A transcript of me getting the kids into the car after camp today: 

Okay, let’s go!  Hurry up, people, let’s get in the car.  Come on, sweets—could we move a little faster here?  Come ON.  Come on come on come on come on.  Let’s go!  Seriously.

When I am happy, my kids tend to be silly and joyful; when I’m anxious, they tend to be grouchy and belligerent.  Research shows that, in general, people’s moods are contagious, and totally transferable to one another. 

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So why, when I’m in a hurry, are they not also in a hurry? 

Perhaps because I’m always rushing them.  Even when I’m in no particular hurry at all.  This is yet another symptom of my overly busy life.

I’ve spent the whole summer trying to slow down.  I’ve started meditating regularly again (I’m still only at 5-10 minutes a day, but that is better than zero minutes!), exercising (not ready to run a marathon, but I’m loving taking brisk walks with my dog), and I’ve gotten my house nearly organized (I love the Scandinavian saying one reader posted: “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.”  Makes me see my not-quite-clean house as a sign that my life is meaningful.)  I’ve gone the whole summer without pushing my work email to my phone, and I’ve taken so much vacation that my colleagues at the Greater Good Science Center may not recognize me at the staff meeting tomorrow.

So why am I still in a big rush?

Clearly I’m in a bad habit of hurrying my kids.  They are dawdlers by nature (what kids aren’t?), and I’m always charging full steam ahead.  My Walking the Talk challenge this week is going to be to break my habit of rushing my children.  Unless someone needs emergency care, I am going to make every effort to let them go at their own pace. 

Because I don’t really want my kids to live their lives at my pace.  They eat slowly; how delightful for them to really savor their meals.  They get in and out of the car slowly: What a great opportunity for me to take a breather, to practice mindfulness.  They take baths so long ordinary people would wrinkle up like prunes: How awesome that they take the time they need to play and relax.

As always, I’m planning to start small .  First, I’ll try to be mindful of not rushing them into and out of the car.  This also means that I’m going to have to pad a few minutes onto our trip to leave more time for them to get in and out—or I’m going to have to accept at the outset that we are going to be late to wherever we’re going.

I wish that I had more leisure time.  As a working single mother, I don’t have time to linger over every meal.  So I expect less of myself, or perhaps for myself. 

I know that this isn’t good for me.  But why should my kids suffer too? I don’t take long leisurely baths each night, but at least my kids can.  I would hate to rush them right out of their childhood.

What is your favorite way to slow down?  Do you rush your kids?  If so, do you want to stop?  If you don’t rush your children, please tell me how you do it! I’d love your comments and suggestions.

© 2010 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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