Tag Archives: Slow

Every New Day

I am filled with wonder at Sam. Of course there are the new skills he has developed over the past 9 months that amaze me as he crawls, holds his own bottle, feeds himself, pulls up (although for some reason his mouth is an important aspect of his pulling up ability), and walks along the edge of the couch or from chair to chair around the table. Those things still wow me when I think about the tiny thing he was not so long ago.

But it’s the little things he finds amazing that fill me with wonder. He loves to look out the window at our back yard. There’s nothing particularly special about our back yard, yet there is very little he finds more enjoyable than just looking at it for hours every day. I inevitably lose interest after a few minutes and do other things while he continues to look outside.

This seems to capture Sam’s thought process pretty well.

Every time my face suddenly appears through a doorway or around an obstacle, he still smiles and laughs. We’ve been playing peekaboo for his whole life, but he still finds this game incredibly fulfilling. Even just turning his head and seeing me across the room will plaster a huge smile on his face.

There’s something beautifully pure about childhood. We lose so much as we gain greater understanding and responsibility. I quickly decide that checking facebook or twitter is more interesting than seeking out the unique details of our back yard with Sammy. What do I gain from social media? Nothing really. But what could I gain from spending slow, quiet time contemplating the beauty of the natural world with Sam? What else deserves the type of intense attention to detail that Sam likes to give things?

Probably one thing that deserves that attention to detail is my cleaning ability, which I type as Sam finds yet another cheerio I somehow failed to sweep up off the floor and he immediately pops it into his mouth. In all seriousness though, I think we gain as much from our children as they gain from us. Here I have been given a perfect example of how to live in deeper connection to my surroundings. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’ll try to make the most of it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a window to look through with my son.

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Relaxation of childhood

This post was initially intended to go up last Friday. Frankly, I forgot to post it as the horrific news from Newtown Connecticut spread. However, I’m not sure there’s any better time to talk about enjoying the simple things in life and spending special time with your family than now, so here’s the original post.

Although there are many joys of parenthood and being a stay-at-home-dad in particular, one of the best is the ability to relax easily. I have to admit, this doesn’t always come easily for me. I have a tendency to push hard and actively do things, even if they are intended as a form of relaxation or entertainment.
In fact, it helps me to remind myself to take things slowly. One of the best things I can do as a parent is to take things slowly and let life develop at its own pace, or perhaps more accurately, Samuel’s pace.
It is good to relax. It is good to sit outside and watch the leaves fall–not that there are any left at this time of year. It is good to turn on the lights decorating the Christmas tree and just look at them and the ornaments on the tree. It’s good to sit and watch a ceiling fan. It’s good to just lie on the floor and play with each others fingers.
Of course, it’s good for children to play with toys and to challenge ourselves in new ways as well. But I think it’s easier to forget to relax than to forget to play, which is just plain too bad. Take some time to smell the flowers–literally or otherwise. Let life shape itself around you instead of trying to mold life or mold yourself into a certain way. I think you and your child will both be better off for it.

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New Environments

Recently I talked about how we went on a picnic, and how that was a good experience for me and Samuel.  Since then we visited family in Tennessee, and those two experiences have been rolling around in my brain and giving me a lot to think about.
It seems like every time we visit family (or when they visit us for that matter) Samuel learns a new skill. He’ll suddenly start reaching and grabbing things or sitting up on his own, or any number of other new developments.
Frankly, it concerned me for a while, when I began asking myself if I was failing as a father by not creating a stimulating enough environment or interacting with him enough/effectively. Fortunately, my wife has a much more level head about such things and reassured me that I was indeed being a good father, but it was simply him reacting to a new environment that helped him unlock something new.
It’s fascinating to me that he can teach himself complex new skills in general, but particularly that he does so when he’s “out of his element”. I suppose on a neurological level he’s creating new pathways in his brain due to the new people and places, so it’s easy to create yet another new pathway for a skill. On the other hand, maybe it’s just that he is able to evaluate the skill in a new light since he’s literally in a different place.
Being “out of the comfort zone” doesn’t apply only to Samuel though. On the contrary, I find myself “uncomfortable” on a regular basis, simply because parenting is still so new to me. When you then add in that I’m learning how to be a blogger and a freelance writer at the same time, life becomes even more complex for me!
However, there is so much more for me to learn as well–one thing Samuel’s got going for him that I don’t is that he is constantly changing and growing, while I am mostly the same. Certainly my perspectives and knowledge are changing all the time, but they’re tempered by the experiences I’ve already had, and physically I remain much the same, even if my hair is slowly becoming a little grayer.
From my perspective though, every day is different than the last as Samuel continues to grow up. In many respects, I constantly get the benefit of being in a new environment because Samuel is constantly new himself.
Even more important than any brain health benefits from Samuel’s growth is that I get the chance to watch his growth and hopefully grow some myself at the same time. It’s not the most glamorous thing I’ve ever done or ever will do, but it’s still very exciting to me–even if I never expected to say that in my entire life!

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You’re not a bachelor anymore

I did something dumb recently. I had trouble falling asleep and ended up being awake until after 3 AM working on projects. From a professional and productivity standpoint, that was a fairly good decision–I got a lot of work done and since I work from home, I could just sleep in.

From a parenting perspective, it was a nightmare. First of all, I’m not a teenager anymore, and I physically just can’t handle that as well as I used to. Staying up that late would not have been unusual for me in the past–I even went for a few weeks on just a couple hours of sleep a night due to a particularly busy semester in college–but I haven’t done that in years, and definitely not since Samuel was born.

Since Sam wakes up at 7 or so most mornings, this could have been a complete disaster, resulting in a grouchy daddy being a bad parent and a bad writer for the whole day. Fortunately, Sam slept in and our day rolled along pretty well. Even so, it reminded me of my new responsibilities in life.

It’s better for me to miss an opportunity than to miss my child. It’s better for me to fall behind in current events than it is for me to ignore my child in the pursuit of my own desires. It’s better for me to push away the laptop and pull up the picture book I’ve already read 5 times today for yet another few minutes of one-on-one time with Samuel.

It’s not always easy and I certainly continue to make those mistakes, in addition to the occasional evenings and weekends when I disappear for a bit to get some necessary work done. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and I’m going to keep working on it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear someone stirring in his crib. I have some life to live instead of just work to do.

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One of my first posts was on the need to slow down and enjoy life that is happening right in front of me, so on Sunday we went to a church picnic at a local farm. This was a small gathering–we attend a small church, and naturally not everyone came to the picnic–but I’m always amazed at how Sam responds to people outside of the family.
Sam is always happy to interact with other people. He loves to be held by new people, talk to them, smile at them, and play with them. I suspect he gets that from his mom, because that’s certainly not how I am! I typically stay very reserved around new people, or even not-so-new people, simply because that’s my personality.
In college I had several class discussions about the “nature vs. nurture” debate, in conjunction with Locke’s Tabula Rasa, John B. Watson’s theories, or even in a literature class when we discussed Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. Throughout my life I have been a “nurture” devotee, but since Sam’s birth I can’t help but reconsider my beliefs.
Sam simply looks like an extrovert at 4 months old. Of course, personality changes over time and he might turn out to be completely different, but this seems like an inborn trait. I suppose this is just another example of the way our perspectives change as life goes on–maybe a bit of “nurturing” that modifies our own nature.
I don’t think this is a bad thing at all–I’m glad he loves to spend time with other people and that he’s as happy to spend time with non-family members as family members.
Of course, there was a lot more than just interpersonal interaction at the picnic–there was a farm full of animals as well! Samuel’s still a bit young for a petting zoo, but we still walked around to look at goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, peacocks, and fish. I thought Samuel might enjoy watching them, based on how funny he finds our cat, but he was mostly uninterested.
Despite this lack of interest, I enjoyed seeing the animals, and watching the other young children at the farm reminded me of how much we still have to look forward to in the future. I have no doubt that within the next few years going to a farm like that will be incredibly fun for everyone, but most of all Samuel.
Samuel has so much more to discover in life, and I am so glad I get to be involved with the discovery process. After all, a front-row seat is nice, but being on the stage and engaged in the process is so much more fun than anything else.

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“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Over the past week or so, PBS has been in the news a lot, mostly in regard to Mitt Romney’s statement that he would cut funding for the organization out of the federal budget. This brought to mind a fantastic speech given by Fred Rogers, one of my heroes, given at another time when PBS funding was under consideration by the federal government—if you’ve never heard this speech before, take a few minutes out of your day and watch it here: 

One of the things I most appreciate about Rogers is his constant (and consistently) calm and kind nature. In this speech he never grows angry about the idea of cutting funding for an organization he certainly had both professional and personal investment in—instead he quietly talks to the congressmen about what he does and why it is important, to great effect as you see at the end of the video. Of course, this is just how he was. I don’t have to tell you that, because if you’ve ever seen an episode of his classic tv show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, you know that within moments of seeing him walk through the front door of the house, reaching children at their own level without ever becoming condescending.

My thoughts about Rogers’ nature also came into contact with Sonny Lemmons’ recent post, “The Eyes Have It”, also well worth your time. We live in a world that seems to grow more frenetic and less forgiving every day, and it is good for us to slow down our lives and make real connections. Put down your phone or tablet. Turn off the tv or computer. Make a real connection with people. Meet them on their level. Slow down and enjoy interacting with people, and make eye contact. It can be hard to do, particularly because we live so much of our lives in that fast-paced world, but it’s not only good for other people and your relationships with them, but it is good for yourself to take a step back and just spend an hour watching the birds. You’ll have another chance to do whatever was pulling you away from these other people, or you might find that it really didn’t matter anyway.

Slow down. Enjoy life. Let the day take you where it will take you. Love the people around you, slowly, kindly, and gently.

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