Debra Carpenter: Life lessons from toddlers

I’m usually in a hurry. I walk fast everywhere I go. At the grocery store, to the mailbox, across the parking lot, and when I think there’s a serial killer behind me. I like to be on time, but being early is better.
Aug 26, 2013
Debra Carpenter, Mother, Interrupted

“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.” 

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I’m usually in a hurry. I walk fast everywhere I go. At the grocery store, to the mailbox, across the parking lot, and when I think there’s a serial killer behind me. I like to be on time, but being early is better. Although I’m a procrastinator in the worst way, I make my deadlines. I have to. It’s the perfectionist in me. My daughter isn’t like me in this aspect. Being three years old and rarely in a hurry, she takes her time in everything she does. I’ve been noticing that being a perfectionist and a parent are strongly at odds with each other. To obsess over punctuality and schedules means you’ll miss out on spontaneity and adventure. Being a slave to the clock keeps you from enjoying the best moments, like pointing out wildflowers and taking the long way home. 

Hurrying up is part of our culture. As a society, we love to be on time and we hate time-wasters, except Candy Crush. And Facebook. As children, we didn’t care what time it was because our priorities were different. 

For example, my childhood priorities included doing whatever it took to miss school, choreographing embarrassing dances to Britney Spears songs, and finding an entrance to a cave that I imagined (wished) was in our backyard. I was once known for my habits of taking hour-long showers and occasionally waking up at two in the afternoon. 

Where did that carefree kid go? How did I turn into the mom that is at her doctor’s appointment 20 minutes early and throws out the milk before the expiration date, just to be sure? Why do I say “hurry up” more often than I say “I love you?” 

Molly, thankfully, hasn’t been phased by my urges to hurry up. She likes to take her time and pick up rocks that look like her Uncle Aaron and name every butterfly that strikes her interest. She gives careful consideration to the smallest details. She likes to take long walks for no reason, and she doesn’t want to walk fast. 

This makes getting places on time hard, sure. It forces me to walk at her pace and see what she sees. It allows me to witness small moments that someone in a hurry would’ve missed. It’s inspiring to see and it makes me want to be a little more like her. I’m seeing now that every time I insisted she hurry up, I was squelching her instinct to explore the world around her. I wish I could take back each time I dismissed a small discovery she made in favor of making it to some long-forgotten engagement on time. 

I’m working on slowing down. It’s harder than it sounds. For now, I’m taking Molly’s lead. I stop when she stops. I smell the flowers she picks. I pick flowers. I remark about the texture of tree bark and hold her hand when she wants to explore a new place. I learn something new everyday, and I’m happy I can show Molly that learning doesn’t stop at 5, 25, or even 85. I catch myself when I’m about to say hurry up and instead, I say “I love you.” I’m glad Molly’s curiosity reminded me to be curious. 

Lebanon native Debra Fulcher Carpenter writes when she isn’t studying, or when she’s procrastinating. Mostly when she’s procrastinating. She is a young housewife, student and mom. Email her at interruptedmom@gmail.com or visit the website at motherinterrupted.com.

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