I heard it in her voice as she shooed her three kiddos out of Starbucks, that tone of frustration and impatience as little feet hurried through the door she was holding open.
She was the third mama who had ushered kids in and out during the hour or so that I sat with my laptop, pretending not to eavesdrop. All three moms had walked through those doors - both into and out of the coffee shop - with similar tone and words: Hurry up. Come on. Move. Go go GO!
This one seemed particularly perturbed as she added: Faster, please! The "please" did not mask her impatience as well as she might have hoped.
I sighed and shook my head and thought: That's me. I'm her.
I remembered just the morning before, when I sent Miss C (my eight year old) to her room for the third time to get her shoes on. As I haphazardly brushed my five year old's hair, I yelled down the hall:
"What are you DOING?!"
"I'm putting my shoes on!"
"It shouldn't take you this long!!"
She yelled back something I couldn't understand.
"Just get them on and get in here, please! We have to hurry!"
I don't think the "please" masked my impatient tone either.
She hobbled into the room, one shoe on her foot, holding out the tangled shoelaces of the other shoe. She couldn't get them untied.
In the meantime, Miss M (my five year old) was tapping her feet to a song she was in the process of writing.
I whipped her hair through the ponytail holder. "I can't do this while you're moving. Be still."
She loves to do things at her own pace, often singing or dancing or talking her way through them. I just needed her to focus.
As I handed Miss C back her untangled shoelaces, I started in: "We are going to be late if you can't pick up the pace..." But before finishing that sentence, I looked up and saw their faces. Like, really saw them. They were tired. And not the kind of tired that happens from a lack of sleep. It's the kind of tired that happens when you're worn down, weary, shrinking.
But it wasn't life wearing them down or causing them to shrink. It was me.
And that realization is what left me sucker-punched as I sat in Starbucks that Saturday morning. Was I rushing my children through their childhood? When they're old and looking back, will they remember only stress and frustration and busyness? C (my eight year old) loves to brush the same handful of hair over and over again "until it's shiny, Mommy." M likes to stop every few seconds to use her toothbrush as a microphone while she belts out her latest Top Hit (that she made up). They both love to pause to give the babies kisses every single time they walk past them. But I wasn't seeing the shiny hair or creativity or deep love they have. I was seeing minutes on a clock.
So I vowed right then and there that I would stop being in such a hurry. Literally, I would never again say the word "hurry" to my children. If we are late, so be it. Being on time wasn't worth all the stress and frustration and weariness that came with it.
That was a month ago. And can I tell you? We have never been late. Not once in four weeks. You know what else hasn't happened? Tears as we're getting in the car. Yelling down the hall to get shoes on. Panicked, painful hair brushing.
I have been forced to find more creative - and loving - ways to get everything done. If a shoe is lost, we all stop and look for it. If Miss M is having a difficult morning getting dressed, I stop and help her, giving snuggles and tickles in the process. They love it when I brush their hair; so we made a rule that if they are completely ready before five after, I'll brush and fix it. After that time, they are on their own, and a simple pony tail will have to do. I honestly can't believe what a positive motivation that has been.
It has changed the tone of our home in so many ways.
So I'm issuing a challenge to all you mamas out there. Give it a try. Commit for one week, or one day, or even one morning, to stop saying "hurry." Don't rush them or remind them of the time. Be okay with being late, just once.
We can do this, you and I. We can change the tone of our home and the memories of their childhood. We can choose not to give into the rush and the panic. We can choose to love slowly and deliberately.
Give it a whirl, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!