“I don’t have time for you to have a meltdown!”
I have never actually said this out loud. But I have said it very loudly in my head on many occasions – usually when I’m swirling about like a cyclone, still in my dressing gown with only 4 minutes left before we need to leave the house.
I don’t care that his favourite t-shirt is in the wash or he doesn’t want to go to school today.
I mean, I do.
But not right now.
Right now, I just have to get the kids to school on time.
For something invisible and, essentially, made up, Time has a remarkable ability to create tension in our lives, even for the most organised of us. Its inability to absorb the unexpected delays that are inevitable in life with kids makes it very unforgiving. When I’m running late or feeling that there isn’t enough time, the pressure can be difficult to contain and often gets inadvertently inflicted onto my boys.
Especially on weekday mornings. Tightened and taut and already 7 minutes late, it can be agonising to watch my boys as they get into the car. Someone realises they’ve forgotten their sunhat and has to rush back into the house to find it. They squabble over a backpack that’s on the other person’s side of the car seat by an inch. Or they’re just plain slow, chatting breezily as if time doesn’t exist.
But listen to me –
“Just leave your brother alone!”
“Put your belt on now!”
Would you feel ready to face a day at school after being barked at and ordered around like this? How many of the meltdowns our children have are actually a result of the pressure we apply by rushing them?
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF OUR TUNNEL
Recently, my boys changed schools and we now travel only 6 minutes to get there, rather than the 26 minutes or more it took to drive to their old school. Early risers, they have not embraced the opportunity to sleep in a little longer. But that has turned out to be a good thing. Now that we have extra time in the mornings, we can get ready for the day at a more leisurely pace. It is a relief not to rush and we have a greater sense of ease & flow in our mornings.
Now, breakfast table conversation isn’t repeatedly disrupted by my interjections to “keep eating, we’ve gotta get going”. I listen patiently to my youngest as he does his reading homework, taking the time to coach him through figuring out tricky words rather than just telling him what they. Yesterday, I had time to attend to my son’s tears about missing his old school, instead of trying to jolly him along because we had to get out the door.
The benefits of a being able to slow down were obvious after just the first day of our new 6-minutes-to-school routine. Most significant to me is that I now have time to connect with my boys in small ways throughout the morning, rather than treating them like sheep that need herding (even though there are only two of them).
FINDING TIME TO SLOW DOWN
I am conscious that my relationship to time is one that I’ll pass on to my boys. If the childhood I give them is one in which we are often rushing, slaves to the clock, they will probably assume that that is how life is lived. I don’t want them to grow up believing that getting through everything as quickly as possible is more important than other things, such as connecting with others and enjoying the moment. But how do we find the time to slow down? Not everyone can change the location of their school/work/home to gain back some of their time. Let me make a couple of suggestions that might help, though.
The beginning of the day, when we are trying to get everyone ready and out the door on time, is commonly stressful for families. It’s well worth working to create a buffer of time in the mornings because they set the tone for the rest of the day. Now, when I drop my boys off at their new school, I don’t need a few minutes to unwind from the rush; because we didn’t rush. I imagine it’s the same for my boys; that they arrive at school feeling more calm and ready for the day.
The end of the day can also feel especially pressured due to the need to get our kids to bed at a decent hour. Arriving home after work or extra-curricular activities, still with dinner to make, children to bathe and bedtime stories to read can be stressful. A more gentle pace and relaxed atmosphere can help everyone to wind down from the day and maybe, even, to fall asleep more easily.
Can you see a few ways to gain extra time and wriggle room for yourselves and your kids at each end of the day? Even finding just 5 extra minutes can take the edge off. Perhaps it means getting up a little earlier, limiting time spent checking emails or preparing school lunches the night before. Delegating some tasks to my boys is one of my best strategies for reclaiming time. Whatever time-wrangling you can do to relieve the pressure where it builds most will benefit everyone in the family.
IN SUMMARY: MAKING TIME FOR OUR INTENTIONS
Essentially, we have to use our time rather than let it use us. I am not talking corporate time-management strategies here, just keeping an eye on the parts of the day where time propels us along rather than our intentions. As a parent, connection and wellbeing are high priorities for me yet they have often been casualties in the rush to get out the door. Forgetting to hug my son goodbye or criticising him for “being so slow” (it was just me “being so fast”) are not conducive to connection and wellbeing. Time is not the enemy but it requires a little taming. When we slow down, we can show up for our kids in the way we really want to and create space for everyone to enjoy themselves.
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