Catholic Life, Family Life, Homemaking, Uncategorized

The Gift of a Slow Childhood

+J.M.J.+

The world always seems to think that faster is better. From our drive-thru food to our internet speeds, we want everything to be quick.

This desire for speed doesn’t stop with our children, either. Society pressures us to rush our kids through each developmental milestone at break neck speed. Your Baby Can Read type programs and the endless baby genius genre books, toys, and shows out there, all push this idea that developing faster is better.

Far sadder than the rush for developmental speediness is a push by secular society for children to grow up and lose their innocence as quickly as possible. Kindergarteners are given sex-ed classes in some progressive public schools, magazines push dating and sex on teens younger and younger, several children’s t.v. shows are depicting sinful lifestyles as normal, and clothing for little girls in many stores now are often just miniature versions of what I would expect a high school or college student to wear.

Why? Why can’t children just enjoy being children instead of being pushed and rushed by our busy world to be little adults?

Something Ethan and I really want to give our girls is the gift of a slow childhood.
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{I want to quickly give the disclaimer that I am not thinking badly of those around me who don’t do things as I am about to describe. When someone writes about how they do things in their homes I know its easy to sound as if you think any other way is wrong, and I am wanting to be clear I am not intending that here. I don’t think it’s bad if your kid watches clean television. (We just don’t want our kids watching anything this young). I don’t think it is bad if you enjoy structured classes for your kids. I think the beauty of a slow childhood can happen with those things, too. I am just going to describe what is working for our family where God has us right now.}

We want their childhood to be slow in the speed of their days. We want learning before their school age years to be self-paced and natural. We want their purity to be of the utmost importance, and pray that in this disordered world their innocence will be preserved.

This slower pace is not easy for me by nature. I come from a long line of super busy, Type A people who don’t sit still. It is hard for me to not let my “to-do” lists get in the way. It is truly a die-to-self thing to slow down and just be present with Ethan and the girls, when I naturally want to rush them and myself.

Sometimes I am also so eager to share an experience or check a milestone off the list, that I fail to recognize the beauty in Philomena doing something when she is ready for it. More than once I’ve been disappointed by her disinterested reaction to an activity I planned for her, only to come back to it again a few months later when she is ready for it and to see her joy when it was the right time for her.

The girls and I had the most beautiful moment this last week that made me grateful for savoring our time together, where God has us now.

We went to the park by the lake and no one else was there. I almost didn’t take them, I wanted to hurry and get some other errands done, but Philomena really wanted to go. She had fun running around the playground and watching squirrels gather their acorns. Then she joined me on this swing I was sitting on, laid down next to me, and was just still.

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Zelie was asleep in my arms, and Philomena just held my hand as we three went back and forth for a good long while in the warm sun, listening to nothing but birds in the distance. It was perfect. No noise from a television set; nowhere in an over- scheduled world that we had to be. We were totally at peace, and I was so grateful to share a still moment in this loud and fast world.

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After a while on the swing, I asked Philomena if I could take a picture to remember our nice morning with, and she obliged.

Philomena doesn’t know what a kid’s show on t.v. is. We don’t have many loud battery-operated toys. We don’t fill up our schedule with tons of classes and paid experiences, and while I know this sounds like our home must be depressing, it isn’t!

Without the constant noise of television and the pressure of being super scheduled, she has the chance to be bored, and benefit from the creativity that comes from boredom.

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She comes up with all kinds of stuff to do in the house. She is endlessly taking our shopping bags and going shopping in our pantry. She bakes “happy birthday cakes” clanking around with my pots and pans. She spends about a half hour every day “washing dishes” in the sink.

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She plays with puzzles and rambles on and on “reading” our books off of the shelves. She is always scribbling on paper, telling me she is writing to Ethan’s parents about the park.  She has lots of stuffed animals and toys that end up all over the house with her various games. She also learns so much just working and playing alongside me as I work around the house.

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We try go to a playground most days, and her joy in climbing, sliding, and running free outside is unparalleled. We love going to drop in library story times, visits to the zoo, taking family hikes and walks, and feeding bird seed to ducks by the river.

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This fun doesn’t mean our days have no structure, however, or that things don’t get done. We have a very consistent rhythm of mealtimes, nap and bedtimes, shopping days, and housework times that I think help provide stability.

As for preserving their innocence, we are trying our best to protect them, and give them a home where their purity matters. I have no desire to dress them like they’re twenty, or expose them to ideas or practices that they’re not ready for. I hope keeping unrestricted internet access and commercial television away helps with this endeavor.

We pray the Rosary every night as a family and go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. We want our lives to be in tune with the Liturgical year of the Church, so we are slowly building up little traditions surrounding special feasts and the major seasons of Advent, Lent, Christmas, and Easter. I hope these practices help them tune out the noise and chaos of the world, and help them stay close to their Faith and Christ.

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Sometimes we go to a church during the week and just enjoy the beauty for a few minutes.

Zelie is watching all of this happen, too, usually up on me in a baby carrier. Just like Philomena did when she was a baby, Zelie is taking in every moment of our family life.

Before I know it my sweethearts will be in school. They will have to deal with the demands of their classes and extracurricular schedules. There will be chores. There might be lessons in some instrument or hobby they take up. They won’t always have the luxury of simply swinging at the park as long as they want. Before I know it they will be big enough to notice the sad chaos of the increasingly immoral society around them. Before I know it, we will hopefully be blessed with a large family that in itself will mean a more rushed, fast paced life just keeping up with everyone’s basic needs.

So for now we are trying to take things slow, enjoying the noise of an unplugged childhood, and prayerfully entrusting them to Our Lord and our Blessed Mother in regards to their innocence.

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The cliche saying about the days flying by really is true. I want to try my best to slow their childhoods down, and let them soak in all of the beauty while they still can.

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Enjoy this post? You may also like our preparations to help make Sunday holy, and “Just wait until…” – On Negative Catholics and Sufficient Grace.

4 thoughts on “The Gift of a Slow Childhood”

  1. This is beautiful! We are out of the toddler-only stage of parenting, but we still try to keep things slow for our little kids. It really is worth it to give them that time to learn, explore, and create at their own little pace.

    Liked by 1 person

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