Guest Post: Learning to Slow Down

January 16, 2013

Note from SlowMama: I’ve never had a man post here before, but I’m happy to have Jimmy Davis — a stay-at-home dad and blogger — break the streak. I’m sure a lot of you will be able to relate to his post today; I know I sure did.

Jimmy Davis Kids

The other day I found myself, yet again, struggling through the painful morning ritual I like to call “Getting Out the Door with Two Small Children.” Most days, this activity is a battle. I try to do as much prep work as I can before the kids are awake — pack the diaper bag, lay out their clothes, shower and dress myself, get breakfast ready. But it seems no matter how prepared I am, that last thirty minutes of gathering the kids and getting them out door is nothing short of pure chaos.

Someone is crying. Someone needs another diaper change. Someone left the broiler on. Someone is hungry again. Someone forgot his keys. Someone is left behind momentarily.

It’s not uncommon for this seemingly simple task to end in complete failure. “That’s it!  We’re staying here! I don’t care anymore.”

So it was going the other day: My five-month-old daughter had been neglected long enough and was roasting in her winter coat as I wrestled with my two-year-old, trying to pin him down long enough to put on his own jacket and pants. I was talking to myself (why are you telling people this, Jimmy?), muttering nonsense, swearing, and coming dangerously close to quitting the endeavor and reverting to a pajama-and-movie day when my son grabbed his shoes, plopped himself in my lap, and began trying to put them on his feet all by himself.  “Loren do it,” he tells me.

Without thinking, my response was, “No, let dada do it. Hurry up, please.” And then I stopped. What was I saying? We were going to the playground. Ruthie was losing her mind, but that was nothing new. My son was trying to be helpful and actually attempting to learn the important task of putting on his own shoes; for all I knew, this could be that one moment in time when he figured it out (it wasn’t, but that’s beside the point).

And in my rushed and frustrated state, I was trying to stop him.

I took a deep breath, checked my head, and then started giving him pointers about how to wiggle the shoe back and forth over his heel, which velcro straps to pull, and where to put them when they were taut.

Eventually, he got his shoes on. The time this little diversion took was completely negligible.

Slowing down isn’t a once-and-done concept, any more than good dental hygiene. You have to work at it, every day, or it doesn’t matter. Slow once a week isn’t enough. Slow when things are easygoing doesn’t cut it, either. Slow needs to be turned on in your brain — so much so that, even during those tense morning battles with your every-bit-a-stubborn-two-year-old son, you can still identify the moments that matter, and embrace them.

Image: Jimmy Davis. Jimmy is an attorney turned stay-at-home dad in Washington, D.C. He blogs at The Book of Jimmy.

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1 Lauren January 16, 2013 at 11:33 am

Such a great post. Such a great reminder! (And though I’m not much farther ahead of you, Jimmy, it does get easier!)

My sister-in-law, who has four very young kids, recently told me that she tries to start the out-the-door routine 15 minutes earlier than usual so that none of the kids feel rushed out the door. As a result, 3 out of 4 of her little ones can get themselves completely dressed, including coat, shoes, hats, etc. I was so impressed seeing them do this over the holidays that I had to know her secret. She told me that they are often late, but she knows this will pay off soon when they are all self-sufficient. It was a good reminder to be more patient with my own boys.


2 Jimmy January 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

That’s impressive. And I always forget that one day they’ll be able to help themselves (even just a little), making for a little less stress.

Right now I’m about a half-hour late every time I go anyplace. I know starting an extra half-hour early makes sense, and I should try harder to do it, but I’m also finding that starting too early can back-fire (by requiring extra diaper changes and what not before we leave). It’s a delicate balance.


Margaret Cabaniss 3 Margaret Cabaniss January 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

Oh dear, that expression on Ruthie’s face is priceless. She has no time for her brother’s shenanigans. Glad to have you as our first official SlowDad, Jimmy!


4 Jimmy January 16, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Thanks for the warm welcome!

I love this shot of Ruthie. Normally she is such an easy-going kid, who would let her brother drop a bowling ball on her head if it meant him giving her attention. But this shot comes from a series of pictures in which she reaches her tipping point and has had enough.


5 PopPop January 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Great post, Jimmy.


6 Zoe Saint-Paul January 16, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I can SO relate. Especially the “That’s it! We’re staying home! I don’t care anymore!” :-)

To Lauren’s point, I’ve now learned to get started 30 minutes before we need to go out the door because it often takes that long to get the girls to (a) agree to start getting their gear on, and (b) get their gear on. Then there are dollies that must come along, water bottles, snacks, and my own stuff that I’m lucky to remember.


7 Alissa Lively January 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Perfect timing, Jimmy! I definitely needed to hear this… I’ve been in “JUST GET IT DONE” mode since Christmas and your reminder is spot on. Thanks for that! (And for the hilarious photo.)


8 Jimmy January 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Christmas was pure fast forward around here too. Definitely hard to take the foot off the pedal once it was all over.


9 Kari January 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm

This is a good reminder for me – thanks! I have kids that are similar ages. I need to slow down more often to also teach my kids how to live slow through my example.
Transitions can be the toughest times for toddlers & preschoolers and I find I add to their frustration when I try to rush them through it. But yet I still do it … ! I think the hardest time for me is when potty time takes forever and ever.


10 Jimmy January 16, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Your point about transitions really hits the mark for me. That is when things are at there craziest here. My toddler understands that we are in a hurry and going somewhere and really starts acting out. His acting out seems to change my baby’s mood too, even though she doesn’t know what’s going on.

We’re just starting potty training. I already get a sense that I have an impatience problem waiting for him to go (and, more likely, sit and not go).


Ann Waterman 11 Ann Waterman January 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I’ve been a little spoiled the past couple years since my oldest is 7 and pretty helpful with the 2 year old, but number 3 is due next month and I think I’ll be back where you are especially when the oldest is at school and I’m alone with the two little one. This is a good reminder to just breath and take it slow!


12 Kathleen January 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

See what happens with me is I start out reeeeaaalll slow. “Henry, come one, sweetheart! Get on your shoes. Let’s go buddy! Go get them from the closet. Put down that car, mister! ” As I frantically chase our other wild woman around with shoes and coats. Finally, my “Come on, buddy!” turns into “We have to leave riiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhtttttt noooooooooowwwwwwwwww or weeeeeee are going to be laaaaaatttttteeee!” And then I grab everything and everyone in one fell swoop like some ogre and trudge out the door. I guess, I need to keep that slowness up and just detach myself from ever being anywhere on time. All the same great reminder, Jimmy!


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