I went to the grocery store and ran some errands the other day without my kids. Since we have a pretty tight grocery budget and I meal plan for a month at a time, I feel like I backtrack through the store a lot. On this particular day, I just knew I was taking forever. I was trying to get home to the kids so my hubby could leave, and it wasn’t working out.

When I got back to the car and looked at the time, I realized I hadn’t even taken that long. It’s because I didn’t have the kids! I’m not exactly known for my promptness anyways, but, throw two kids who can’t buckle themselves … or feed themselves … and a lot of times, both can’t walk for themselves, and everything is just s-l-o-w-e-r.

Take breakfast for instance. What used to be a mad-dash to pour the cereal and milk in a bowl and rush to my car, has now turned in to an hour-long affair filled with ‘And now what can I have next to eat?’ You’d think my girl was training to be the next Michael Phelps the way she can put down food … when she wants to, that is.

(And, yes, I ate cereal on the way to work … almost daily. And spilled it more than once. I do not recommend this. However, it is slightly better than cracking an egg you thought was hard boiled over your dash. Oops.)

After breakfast, we go feed our animals. Again, FireCracker wants to help with and Smiley wants to watch.

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She spills the feed. I bite my tongue. She asks questions. For the third time. I sigh. The day drags on, and I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself, because Doc McStuffins is following me singing “Time for your checkup.”

On our way in for lunch, we walk past the garden.

“Hey, look! The peas are growing. There’s the rhubarb,” FireCracker excitedly chimes.

Those are the peas that she helped me plant the time she was more interested in filling my trench with worms than dirt. They’re leaning a little now in the wind; they need their fence finished so they can keep climbing and growing.

Just like the peas have changed in the blink of an eye, I’m aware that my girls do too. Sometimes I don’t see it because they’re always with me, and a lot of our days are filled with the same, day in, day out. But having them and having been forced to slow down has taught me a few things. Here’s just a touch of what I’ve learned by living my life a little slower with kids.

Slowing down fosters independence. Fire Cracker has been potty trained for almost a year now. Up until a couple months ago, I’d been doing most of the dirty work for her, accompanying her to the toilet and cleaning her up. It’s been easier for me to wipe her and wash my hands than to lift her up, scrub her hands for her and then clean up the mess she made in the water. I finally realized I can’t send her to kindergarten without knowing how to do the whole potty process, so I found a stool that has lasted more than three days. I showed her how to step up, turn on the water, and wash her own hands after going. One morning she shouted from the toilet, “Mom, why am I wiping my own self?”

That’s obviously an important life skill. But when I’m in  a hurry, I’ve caught myself dressing her, putting her shoes on or spoon feeding Smiley instead of letting her figure it out. I don’t want to stifle their ability or their pride in facing a challenge and figuring it out for themselves.

Slowing down gives me a new filter. We picked some flowers the other day on a walk. At FireCracker’s insistence, we stopped and plucked all 82 of them. When we sat down to supper, my husband commented on the intricate design and beauty of the flowers. They were just ditch flowers I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed had I not taken the time to stoop down to my kid’s level.

Slowing down decreases materialism.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop and even going to the grocery store makes me a little giddy (you really don’t have to feel bad for me!). But with two kids in tow, it’s harder to up and go to the mall, and when I do, it never fails we spend more time on the merry go round than in the store. Being home with the kids, we go less places and create more fun in our backyard or on our bikes or with blanket forts. I am working on a list of local places to experience and fun things to do at home with the girls for summer, but to them, it’s about the fun to be had, not the things we need.

Slowing down creates relationships. It’s so funny to hear the things my older daughter comes up with sometimes when I take the time to put my phone down and just talk to her while we’re eating lunch. Entertaining her thousand questions and then turning around and listening to her rabbit trail of a three-year-old answers reminds me just how important it is to talk and to listen. 

I’ll admit, I’m usually still late and often feel like I’m rushing. But these days, I’m trying to take an extra minute to see life through little eyes.

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