Joanna and I had a quick stop at the grocery store this morning, only four items on our list. Walking together, holding hands, carrying a basket — I never knew a shopping trip could feel like such a walk in the park. I knew it would be the fastest shop ever.
But it wasn’t. Joanna was on her own schedule. Even though we didn’t get a cart, she still had to examine every one, try out those with plastic cars attached to the front (“Look at me drive Mommy!”), climb up in the ones with the two-seaters in the back (“Ellie can sit there next time.”) Getting into the store took about fifteen minutes. After that, we had to stop and look at everything in the first twenty feet of the store.
I swallowed a lot of words. Let’s just get it done! This is not the fun part, the exciting part! Joanna was oblivious. I needed a shower. I needed her to hurry up. But she would not be rushed.
This is what we forget about toddlers and preschoolers: They are not slow on purpose, in order to tick off their parents (a talent perfected in adolescence). They’re slow because stuff is exciting. Anything from a melting pile of dirty snow to a shiny pomegranate to the gum display at the checkout. To them, it’s all cool and new. So they are slow and observant and present.
That’s what most of us adults miss. Being aware, observant. We’re so busy we miss what we’re doing. We miss our present by maximizing our time. I see Moms at the grocery store, steering carts with one hand (while riding toddler munches a snack) and gabbing on cell phones with the other. People drive while staying in touch. The tick-tick-tick of texters fill the air at train stations and bus stops.
What is so darn important that it has to be now?
It must be just me. I have a cell phone, but as my loved ones could tell you, it’s usually not charged because I never use it and never know when it runs out of batteries. I have a few numbers entered — husband, Mom, sister, preschool — but those numbers I have memorized anyway. I’m never on the go that much that I can’t sit down on the couch at home to make a call.
Clearly I have no social network. That must be it. Look at my Facebook friends list — only 72. How embarrassing! Most people have near 200. That must be why phones are necessary — I can’t even imagine how much time it takes to maintain those relationships. I have a hard enough time with my few dozen. Two hundred, sure, I’d need to chat it up while buying shampoo at CVS.
We are staying connected, but I’m not sure it’s worth it.
What I mean is this — we are staying in touch by texting all day, by using our “dead” time (shopping, riding in the car) to catch up with a friend or get an extra business call done. But in doing so our most important connections have broken — the ones to this world around us, a place we have such limited time to experience.
Stop and smell the roses? Do we? We see a gorgeous rose bush. We definitely stop. But smell the fragrance? Nah. We stop to snap a picture with our camera phone, email it to all of our Facebook friends, post it to our websites, blog about it, research rose-growing for our future gardens, and before we know it, we’ve moved past the rose bush. We did everything but actually enjoy the rose — we are so eager to share our experiences with all those we feel connected to, we forget to have the experience in the first place. Take away the technology and you are left with a singular moment.
That’s the thing about toddlers and preschoolers. They have no social networks or means by which they can instantly connect with their BF from day care. Joanna will spend 20 minutes by the rose bush and at the end have experienced it with every part of her being (except taste, which is more of an Ellie sort of thing to do). By association, she has forced me to experience it to — if I let her. I could use that “dead time” to text or make a phone call. And yes, I’ve been known to do that as a child dawdles near the ice cream section of the store.
But I’m trying. Every day I try to not rush myself or my children through our daily experiences, through our lives, already so short, already gone so quickly. I try to slow down and let them teach me how to be present in life. I hate to think of the roses that I’d otherwise miss.
Because if I don’t do it today, when will I?