Bear with me. It sounds complicated, but really, it’s not.

My e-friend Bernadette Noll, who is friends of friends of my friend living in Munich, is the co-founder of the Slow Family Movement, the idea of investing time in our families instead of the activities that keep us away from them.  It is incredibly encouraging that mainstream media outlets such as yesterday’s USAToday have embraced the idea of the power of slow in so many areas of our lives.

And here’s the thing. It works.

This morning our kids were calm, centered and ready for their school week. It wasn’t only because we opted to do virtually nothing this weekend. It wasn’t only because my husband and I joined them in doing, well, nothing. It was also because the kids are firmly rooted in the understanding that we want to be with them whilst doing nothing. They built a fort out of chair and blankets, then slept under them at night. They played horse on their bikes and gathered walnuts that had fallen from our tree in the yard. They were happy just being. And it was beautiful to watch.

At the risk of sounding pious (and I really don’t mean to), you reap what you sow. And lately I’m beginning to understand what Bernadette Noll means when she says less is more for families too.

I spend a lot of time with my kids. Sometimes toooooo much time, if you know what I mean. But the truth is I wouldn’t change a thing. Their time at home is limited to a handful of years. That’s all we have before the comings and goings and laundry drop-offs begin. It is a precious time of instilling how valuable they are as human beings. If we didn’t invest time in them, what would they think about themselves and the world they inhabit? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be the one to show them the way than to leave it to chance…or television and YouTube.

Investing in your relationships, whether with children or other loved ones, is the best insurance policy life can give you. It is time well-spent, or in the eyes of Bernadette and myself, invested ~ for the future is tomorrow’s present and your time is a present too.

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Teaching Kids to Go Slow

February 2, 2010

Hyperparenting has dropped off the media radar for the most part. You don’t read much about overscheduling, at least not like you used to. My guess is it has more to do with our acceptance of today’s norm of overscheduling than to the actual disappearance thereof. We are all overscheduled. And that makes us ‘normal’.

Sometimes I observe people’s reaction when they ask me if I have time.

“Yes. I do.”

They typically blink twice, dumbfounded that anyone would admit they have any time at all. Isn’t that just so 1800’s when leisure was a part of the upper class and not really something anyone who toiled for a living could admit to having enjoyed?

So we book ourselves, and our kids, to the max. Then we wonder why we are time-starved and stressed.

We can avoid the whole overscheduling debate by leaving blank days available. Some people might laugh at the impossibility of it. Really? I’m not sure when we gave over our power to the almightly clock (actually, yes, I do. It had to do with Frederick Taylor’s study of factory worker productivity, tying the knot between the clock and capitalism once and for all). As far as I know, we all have the same hours on it as everyone else.

If our scheduling minds require it, schedule ‘down time’. Mondays and Wednesdays are notoriously blank days in our family. The kids have no athletic activities, music lessons or afternoon instruction. They frolick (after homework), allowing their minds to roam. They read books, play games, or romp in the snow. It works because they are used to the down time necessary to free up their mind for the next day’s assignments.

Some may call me a slacker mom for leaving so much ‘dead air time’ in my kids’ lives. They play in organized teams, have music lessons and even tutoring sessions. But those days off are as precious as the air they breathe.

How can we invite more slow into our kids’ lives?

1. Leave several days of unstructured time available for kids to play with their friends or do whatever comes to mind.

2. Ask them to suggest a weekend activity. Give them a choice as to whether they ‘do’ anything at all.

3. Allow for spontaneity by leaving space between things. Instead of planning back-to-back events, plan only one, then see what else unfolds.

4. Have your child organize his or her own birthday party, offering assistance only where needed.

5. Spend a day together frolicking without a stated purpose.

Slow family living is about connection, joy and love. It is life’s greatest reward.

**This post originally appeared on Psychology Today. Reprint with permission.

Slow Mom Movement

October 6, 2009

Kiwi magazine and I had a chat recently about living the slow life. Perhaps indicative of the topic, my phone didn’t work the day we were to have the moms meetphone interview so we had to reschedule for the following day. Embracing the slow, I realized there are many ways to connect with people. Luckily, my email was still working so the writer and I were able to remain in communication despite external circumstances.

The Slow movement is gaining a strong foothold in our society as people realize their current pace is not sustainable. At one point we all give out if we don’t rest and take time for self-care.

As the seasons change (for the Northern Hemisphere, things are turning colder), we need to be reminded to:

1) Breathe.

2) See the big picture.

3) Laugh. A lot!

4) Allow for tears and periods of mourning.

5) Accept ourselves for who we truly are.

Let us remember what is  important. And what is not. It’s not winning the soccer game or getting a perfect score that matters. It is the process of becoming we must cherish most. Slow Moms unite!

Back to Nature – for Kids

September 13, 2009

Go outside!

I shout that at least once a day. What is a pariah to my kids, is the saving grace to my mental health and, as it turns out, theirs, too.

The Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service have created a campaign to encourage today’s youth (specifically tweens aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature by experiencing it first-hand.

There are many health benefits to kids who spend time out in nature. Time spent in nature gives kids the ability to engage in unstructured and adventurous play, improving their physical and mental health and emotional well-being. It also helps create a conservation ethic and a life-long love of nature. And did you know that the close proximity to open green space is related to reducing childhood obesity? The closer the trees, the easier they are to climb.

More fun facts:

• U.S. children spend 50% less time outdoors than 20 years ago
• Research shows, that children who play outside:

  1. play more creatively;
  2. have lower stress levels;
  3. have more active imaginations;
  4. become fitter and leaner;
  5. develop stronger immune systems;
  6. have greater respect for themselves, for
    others, and for the environment.

• Based on research conduced by Euro RSCG, 88% of tweens
like being in nature and 79% of tweens wish they could spend
more time in nature.

So go slow. Go natural. Go to the forest and breathe…