12: Opting for a Slower Pace

12: Opting for a Slower Pace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

  
Opting for a Slower Pace

Life is really simple,
but we insist on making it complicated.

~Confucius

In the 1980s, my husband, David, and I married, bought a home, and began our careers. It wasn’t long before a friend informed us we were “Young Upwardly-Mobile People” or “Yuppies.” Who knew?

Then came the 1990s. Still childless, we were working from dawn to dusk and spending nights and weekends at the local amateur theater. It was a great life. That’s when another friend told us we were, “Double Income No Kids” or “DINKs.” It was news to us.

In the next few years, we went from double income-no kids to single income-three kids and began a whirlwind of diaper bags, minivans, and play groups. We decided I’d put my career on hold and be a full-time mom. After waiting so long to have a family, we wanted to do this thing right. Before we knew it, elementary school came along, and things really got hectic.

We signed up for gymnastics, soccer, Girl Scouts, T-ball, and karate. So much to do. So little time to do it all. There were art classes, French, and Suzuki violin.

A balanced dinner became nachos and a corn dog at the ballpark.

Some of our most meaningful conversations took place on our street with David sitting in his car heading home from work and me in mine dashing off with the kids in another direction. “Dinner’s in the microwave.” Kiss. Kiss.

I suppose it was inevitable that I discovered I was, once again, an American cliché when yet another friend informed me I was a “Soccer Mom.” I could live with that.

Then one day, I looked around and thought “What are we doing?”

We had three beautiful, healthy kids and everything we ever wanted. Yet the five of us hardly knew each other.

I’d put my career on hold to be a full-time mom and had become a full-time maniac. My schedule was worse than it had been when I was working. I couldn’t remember a time when we’d had dinner around the table like a real family.

Was this what we were aiming for? No time for us to be a family, no time for our kids to be kids, to use their imaginations, to enjoy just doing nothing?

By trying to give our kids everything, what were we taking away from them?

After several late-night discussions and a lot of praying, David and I decided we wanted out of the minivan marathon. Secretly, I wondered if it’d be that easy.

When friends asked, “Do you want to carpool to karate?” or called, “See you at the ball field?” I took a deep breath and declared we were taking some time off.

As they raced past our front door, we stayed home and built birdhouses, baked cookies, read books in the hammock, and planted a vegetable garden. My kids made stuff. They painted. We took nature walks and wrote nonsense poems. Our river replaced the van as the place we were most likely to be found.

I had moments of panic when I thought of all my kids were missing. The twenty-first century was going on without us. Should we clamber to catch up? David and I lay awake at night second-guessing ourselves. Maybe we didn’t have to cut out everything. Maybe just French, gymnastics, and …

Then I began to hear my friends complaining that no matter how much they did, their children were always bored. Meanwhile, my own kids made blanket forts, performed original plays, composed songs on the piano, taught tricks to the dog, wrote stories, and were anything but bored. They didn’t ask for TV. They didn’t ask to go anywhere. They were too busy just being kids.

Instead of rushing out of the office to meet me at the ballpark, David came home to a picnic dinner in the backyard. He and I began to remember why we’d married each other.

For once we were bucking the trend, and we’d never been happier.

I guess it had to happen and this past week it did. Much to my dismay, a friend informed us we are “minimalists,” and that “minimalism” is the newest trend with American families.

It seems that even when we try to be pioneers we’re destined to follow the crowd.

All I can say is, if kids having time to be kids and families having time to be families is a trend, then this is one time this former Yuppie, DINK, Soccer Mom is glad to be considered trendy.

~Mimi Greenwood Knight

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