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The First Time Around: Learning to Slow Down

Despite the emotional wrecking ball that is the sum total of the lyrics to this song, I listened to it on repeat, just as I often do with so many other profound pieces of music upon first discovery.
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Today, I discovered Nichole Nordeman's stunningly beautiful "Slow Down," a song about the fleeting nature of childhood, the lyrics of which urge:

Slow down
Won't you stay here a minute more
I know you want to walk through the door
But it's all too fast
Let's make it last a little while.

Despite the emotional wrecking ball that is the sum total of the lyrics to this song, I listened to it on repeat, just as I often do with so many other profound pieces of music upon first discovery. Peering through seemingly sweaty eyelids out my office window, I reflected on Nordeman's words while lamenting my own family's journey. If there is only one absolute certainty with respect to parenting (believe me, there aren't many of those), it is this: Time marches on for us all, and there isn't a damn thing any of us can do to slow it down.

This got me thinking even further. Specifically, I remember a time with each of my four children when, instead of "slow down," my mantra was more like "hurry up" or "I can't wait until..." There comes a time in every parent's life when we wish for a point in the foreseeable future. Usually, this happens during the anxious wait as we watch our kids learn to walk, talk, sleep through the night, or even use the bathroom successfully on a regular basis.

I remember someone once shared with me an old adage on this very topic: "You spend the first year of their lives teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives trying to get them to shut up and sit down!"

So, which is it? Hurry up or slow down? When that future point arrives, we look back with sadness and wish to be able to relive much of it all over again.

Time is a funny thing. It flies when we're having fun but drags on when we are miserable.

What if we could do something about that, though, and make the most of the time we have been given, especially when considering we all have available to us the exact same 24 hours in each day (yes, I know it's different for astronauts orbiting the Earth - work with me here).

What this song reminded me of is the need for not my children to slow down, but for me to do so instead. I cannot expect my son to be in third grade forever, begging for stories before bed and trips to the park to play catch. I cannot hope for my tween daughter to avoid puberty and not discover romantic interests, which relegate daddy to the back of her mind instead of being the one guy in her world who could have done anything for her.

I can, however, slow down myself.

I can save staring at my phone for the times when they are at school or in bed, so that the little electronic device in my pocket doesn't seem like it has priority over them.

I can shut my mouth and instead, listen to their every words like they were the most important thing I've heard all day, even if that's telling me for the millionth time about a celebrity crush or how Episode V is still the greatest movie in the Star Wars saga.

I can stop taking so many pictures and videos and instead, enjoy the experience of the moment. After all, what good is a photograph if I wasn't fully present to enjoy it the first time it happened, in real life?

I can pay attention with purpose, so that I might recognize when one of my children needs a friend instead of a disciplinarian, a shoulder to lean on instead of a lecture, or a "Yes, I'd love to go outside and play" instead of a "Maybe later, when I'm done with this one more thing."

Perhaps, if I slow down, then when the time comes to look back on their childhoods, I won't feel the sting of regret and wish for them to be little again, but instead, I'll savor the vast wealth of memories we created together in the time we had been given - the first time around.

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