family portrait photography

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth.

When our oldest was two and we’d walk down the street to the community mailbox, he was in no rush to get there. He wandered, meandered, stopped, sometimes turned around. I realized then that he was definitely not destination-oriented. Most young children aren’t. In fact, the concept of hurrying baffles them. For little ones, an outing is much more than trip to the mailbox and back; it’s a wonder-full exploration of the world around them and they’re pretty much experts at taking their time to enjoy those wonders. There’s so much to admire about children.

When we first became parents my husband bought a book called Trees Make the Best Mobiles, and although I loved the title and the premise of simple parenting, I confess I didn’t ever read it. But an idea that Justin shared with me has stuck with me for years. It’s this, or something quite like this: hurrying children is a form of violence. Yikes. It’s stuck with me all these years because it’s a pretty bold statement, but I’ve come to see how true it is.

To a little wanderer whose days are not controlled by minutes on the clock or appointments or deadlines, suddenly having an urgent rush imposed on his exploration does seem quite traumatic. Little ones don’t even have a context for something like “being late” and hurried parents are often harried parents, with small stores of patience and short tempers that are confusing at best and downright harmful at worst. When I realize that most of our hurries stem from my lack of planning (and a deep-seated denial that it actually takes us 15 minutes to get into the car), I recommit to thinking ahead. Things like asking for shoes on, asking for supplies to be gathered, bathroom trips to be taken, and drinks to be had well in advance saves us from that frantic hurry that leaves all of us feeling empty.

Do you agree with this idea that rushing a child is a form of violence? How do you keep frantic rushes at bay as a parent? Have your children taught you to slow down and savor simple things?

P.S. Thanks to my dear sister-in-law Carisa for sharing this lovely post by Rachel Macy Stafford, which got me thinking about this topic. The article is about Rachel’s evolution from a hurried parent to a more deliberate one, and is well worth a read. A real gem from Rachel’s post about accepting our parenting mistakes: “As my child looked up at me waiting to know if she could take her time, I knew I had a choice. I could sit there in sorrow thinking about the number of times I rushed my child through life… or I could celebrate the fact that today I’m trying to do things differently. I chose to live in today.” Oh, that we can all be so wise!