Slow Parenting: Life Is Precious

Life is precious.

How often don’t we say this, almost casually, as if the perfect response to what seems beyond our grasp.

When confronted by the heart wrenching images of Japan in ruins, I hear people all around making this statement, but wonder how many truly do grasp fully the potency of those 3 words.

Today countless families will be torn apart. A child, parent, friend, lover – all around this globe this date will become the worst day of someone’s life. Excruciating loss will become someone’s new template, and they will never see life the same again.

It is always fascinating, that it takes these catastrophic events for many to take note of  the basic truth that days, and our time on this earth, are fragile and fleeting.

When confronted by this it is our choice as to how we’ll proceed. We have been given these extra moments to continue living. How will we use our time?

As parents, we have the incredible gift of sharing days with our children, and if confronted by the fact that this might indeed be your last day together, how would you choose to live it?

Starting when my son, James, was in the 4th grade, we would spend our morning drive to school contemplating what we would do today – just in case it was our last. It was not morbid, or maudlin, but rather a fun exercise and fantasy game.

What would we do to make this day the best?

Inevitably, the list would include sharing some good jokes; eating well (perhaps some ripe brie on warm bagette or delicious chocolate); smelling the flowers in the vase; spending time outside (probably by the water), or visiting the climbing tree on the Ft Mason green; plotting a nice hot shower or bubble bath; catching a new CD at Amoeba records; playing catch at the end of the day; or reading the next chapter in our favorite novel before turning out the lights.

When we arrived at the school intersection we would always end by sharing a hug and “I love you”, before opening the car door to head off for the day.

This tradition carried on through secondary school and even when James’ diagnosis worsened, the drive was still full of fantasy and what-ifs, and never did we part without a hug and “Love you”.

These golden moments are the treasures that sustain me now and I feel so blessed that we followed the lead to be simple and mindful, when at all possible.

Every day you have been given the precious gift of time with your child and family.

You get to decide how you will spend it together. What will be your priorities? How do you see it unfolding?

Will you choose to embrace the simple, loving, calm and slow gestures or will you spin your time, pondering the unknowns?  Will you continue to hold that gnawing grudge?  Let it go? Will you be less distracted and more present, when your child asks to read a book or play with their puzzle?

Or, will the never ending worries continue to consume?

What school will be the best for my child’s future? Will they be good at sports? What do I need to wear for the school interview? How will my letter to the Head of school impact their opinion of me? Will my child ever be in the top percentile? When will they be better at math, or science or Spanish? What grade point average do they need for the next school? Will we be invited to that party? How do I get back into my size 8 jeans? We need to get a bigger house to show we are succeeding….

On and on and on it goes.

The list of unknowns is endless, totally draining, and will leave you and your family depleted.

Since none of the answers rest in your hands, why put so much energy into them?

It takes a lot of courage and conviction not to be seduced by all the what-ifs that society throws at you. As stated earlier, the incessant diet of insecurity, that we are force fed in this media driven culture, is tough to dodge. We can’t all live as hermits in our perfectly constructed bubbles, so we have to learn how to negotiate the constant barrage of  ideas & concepts, sounds and images that toy with all our insecurities and make  us feel less worthy.

When confronted by our last breath none of us will wonder if we accomplished all that we should have, attended the right schools, made the right impression or looked sleek in our clothes. Instead we will  hopefully be holding on to the hand of someone who loved us deeply and will be remain loyal and loving after we slip away, granting us the peacefulness of a quiet end.

My wise father used to say “There are no pockets in the shroud,” and how true those words are. So much of what we cling to, and worry about, slip away as vapours when we reach those final minutes.

Why would we therefore  put so much energy into them during our robust days?

Young children have the remarkable gift of not knowing how to edit and so every moment is fresh, fun and playful. They live in the present tense where all is new and simple things bring the greatest pleasure. We have much to learn from them, if we pay attention.

So here we are with another new day. A fresh landscape and new horizon. As corny as it might sound, this is indeed all you have been given. A new morning, and hopefully a full 24 hours to share with those you love.

Choose wisely where you put your energy. Share that extra hug with your child, tell those you love that indeed you love them. Stop to watch the bird and smell the hyacinth, or freshly mowed grass.  Enjoy that ice cream cone that drips down your fingers.

Mindfully and slowly, savour, share and treasure.

For indeed life is precious and fleeting and you and your children have been gifted with time, for today.

c  Jean Alice Rowcliffe   2012

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