If I could take one phrase that makes me a better parent and tattoo it on my brain, it would be this; slow down.
It’s no secret that we live in a fast paced world. And I am as guilty as anyone. Mr Techno hates walking anywhere with me because he says I go everywhere at ‘Lucy marching speed’ (which translates to ‘as fast as I can possibly walk and not actually be jogging’). At work, I am known for being speedy with my responses – because of a quirk with the computer clocks, I once confirmed a course booking before the time stamp on the email said it had actually been made. The Finance Department were rather bemused!
14 months ago, when Mr Techno and I found ourselves the unprepared parents of a beautiful newborn boy, I took the same approach to child care. Any cry had to be answered immediately. Nappy changes were done at racing speed. In the rare moments I was not actually holding Tom, I ate, showered, and went to the toilet as though I was being chased.
Fortunately, you spend a lot of time sitting when you have a newborn (because they will not nap anywhere but on you). So I had a lot of googling time. And what does an anxious new parent google except for…everything to do with babies ever written (did I mention I’m a fast reader too?)
Thankfully, amongst all that anxiety-causing advice, I stumbled across Janet Lansbury’s website and discovered RIE. And one of the key things I learnt was that to care for a young baby, you need to slow your pace to theirs. Instead of jumping up frantically every time Tom cried, I began waiting, watching, trying to determine what he was trying to tell me, and only then acting. Nappy changes became long, leisurely exchanges where I chatted happily to Tom, pausing before carrying out each step to check in with him, tell him what was happening and wait for his response before continuing.
These days, nappy changes are back to being a sprint rather than a marathon, as I try to get him clean and into a new nappy before he gets bored and wanders off, or climbs on the soft furnishings. But I’m glad to have discovered a slower pace of life. Because toddlers and fast really do not go well together (unless you have a bare bottom boy escaping from the change mat of course). Every walk turns into a voyage of discovery, as Tom investigates the different textures, smells, sounds and sights of his new world. We spent a good five minutes staring at a cat earlier today. Last week he refused to finish crossing a bridge until he had poked every bit of moss on the way across. And there was a lot of moss.
Obviously this can be quite annoying if we are trying to get home for a meal, or naptime, or so I can do some laundry. But in general I try to keep our days together relatively free of appointments, so that we can take the time to explore. If that means taking twenty minutes to walk to the park (which is two minutes away), because Tom likes the way the leaves crunch, then so be it.
We have to rush a bit more on work days of course – we have to be out of the door by 7.30 to reach Tom’s nursery by 8.00. And we are never out of the door by 7.30. But if I’m a tiny bit late for work some days, it isn’t the end of the world. I’ll make it up somewhere else. Time spent with Tom though? That I can never make up somewhere else. So I’m going to continue to enjoy the slow lane. The view is much better at this speed.