At A Snail’s Pace


I have a new parenting resolution and I think it might kill me.

I am trying to let Wolfy set the pace more often. But I am a fast-paced person. I like being a person who gets a ton of stuff done every day. I like moving quickly and with purpose. Wolfy does not believe any of this is important.

The other day I decided to put my new resolution to test in front of the toy store. Wolfy likes to stand in the front of the store and look at the window display. So for my experiment, I decided to let him stand there for as long as he wanted. I wanted to see just how long he would stay there pointing and naming everything in the window.

He didn’t just stand there naming the big stuff like bikes and stuffed animals. No, he had to say the word for every figure in the Play Mobile display. Every tree, every rock. Then he did it all over again. This was interspersed with questions every few moments. “What’s that? Why’s that there?” It went on and on until I couldn’t take it anymore, and besides, I have a small bladder.

My theory is that someone spending a lot of time with a toddler invented the concept of the “teachable moment”.

For Wolfy, there’s a teachable moment every five seconds. The world is an exciting place and he wants to explore every inch of it. In college I took child development. Part of the class was about brain development in young children. It is all about building neural connections. Wolfy has more neural connections in his brain right now than I do. He will pare all of the useless connections away later, but right now his brain is saying, “More! More! More!” And so, I try to be patient and let him explore even though inside I’m screaming, “Hurry up! What’s wrong with you? You are driving me absolutely crazy!”

I know it’s impractical and impossible to let Wolfy lead the way.

My goal is just to do it sometimes and it is starting to get easier. One powerful motivation is that when I let Wolfy set the pace, our days seem to go smoother. We are both in more pleasant moods because I’m not in the role of constantly nagging and Wolfy is not constantly being told what to do.

Recently we were at an expo and Wolfy was given a cheap plastic pinwheel. As we were walking back to our car, the wind caught the blades and turned the pinwheel really fast. Wolfy’s face lit up. “Do it again!” he said and then tried to find the on-button. We spent ten minutes together, exploring how the pinwheel worked. Blowing on it and tilting it into the wind. Before my experiment, I would have rushed Wolfy to the car and onto whatever was happening next. But instead I let Wolfy take the lead and actually found myself enjoying it.

And we did make it back to our car. Eventually.

7 thoughts on “At A Snail’s Pace

  1. It is very hard. I, too, like to get things done and so have a hard time letting Baby Boy spend a good deal of time exploring. But, just the other day, after taking the trash out, I let him do his thing. We sat on the steps together for a few before he wanted to climb the stairs and go back inside. That was a pleasant a
    nd comfortable sit 🙂

  2. I know the feeling SO well… My Block is captivated by the world – it is kind of old news to me! I, too, am really trying to let him set the pace on walks etc, but everything is exciting and out of this world – “there’s a stone! There’s a stone! Wow, a stone! Look, mama – more stone! There’s a stone”

  3. I love your resolve! On days we are in no hurry I often allow the kids to do the same. It is so much fun to watch the way their little minds take in each and every detail around them!

  4. That is wonderful. My daughter is in the “What’s that?” phase and I have tried taking the same approach. I remember being told once when I was little by a certain family member that I was annoying for asking so many questions. I vowed I would answer everything my child had to ask me even if it was the same question 100xs

  5. This is wonderful. Wish I’d been able to do it more often.. slow down, that is. Although it seems contradictory, perhaps you can schedule “slow down” times. It misses the serendipity of the moment of course, but it does give some space for this & for both of you.

    Then again, if you can’t slow down or don’t want to, you can remember that it is important for kids to learn that this too is part of the world… not being in charge of the pace, adapting to others’ pace, not being the center of everyone’s life all the time, etc. And, if you have two or more kids their “slow down” paces are not the same at all

    1. I like the idea of scheduling “slow down times”. I try to do that by leaving extra early for most things. Even though I move at a fast pace, I hate feeling rushed. I never thought of different children being at different paces. I thought that more than one would just mean they’d slow each other down even more. 😉

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