Plenty of Time

Most mornings, we revere a quiet pace around my home. We celebrate slowness. But today, it is almost noon, and we are late, and I can't find my keys (though I know I had seen them on the counter just moments before). I am suspicious.

"Cassie, have you seen my keys?"

"Yes, I've seen them." My three-year-old is lying on the couch with her feet straight up in the air, tapping her boots together.

"Where did you see them?"

"They are right to the left of behind."

Huh? I try again, this time lowering my voice: "Where are my keys, honey? I don't want to be late."

She gets up. Aah, she has come to identify the subtle but effective mommy-is-serious voice.

She picks up a ballpoint pen from the table and hands it to me. "Here are your keys, Mommy," she manages to say before collapsing in hysterics.

She looks up, still laughing. (I'm not.) "Oh, now that was a silly joke, Mommy," she laughs some more. "That was a pen. Not your ke-e-e-e-eys." She pulls her sister under the table with her. They are both giggling.

Ten minutes later, I had found my keys (where I, not she, had put them), and got on with the business of loading the baby in her car seat, finding the preschooler's coat, mittens, and gloves, and stashing them into the appropriate places for later. For the older one, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a "monkey juice," so named for the orangutan that used to grace the Tang pouches. For the younger one, crackers, cantaloupe, and a juice sippee cup. And I've finally remembered our library books.

Apparently, hurrying is antithetical to a preschooler's very nature. On her way to the car, she stops to hide on the deck. Then she makes a pit stop into her playhouse.

Then she pauses to tell me that potatoes don't have blood, but that she does. As Cassie stands in the driveway reliving yesterday's paper cut and the ensuing Barbie Band-Aid, I resist the urge to check my watch.

It is then that I have to remind myself that my sense of urgency is, today, self-serving. I'm a busy mom, but I work hard to keep my days with the kids "business free." And today, we are going to a simple playgroup. At this playgroup, we all drop in and out. No one is watching the clock to see when we arrive. And no one in particular is waiting for us.

I realize, all at once, that my self-created melodrama is strangely comforting to me. Then I wonder, at this time, what I'm modeling to my kids. Because we can't simultaneously be frazzled and calm. We can't simultaneously be agitated and attentive. We can't simultaneously be fragmented and mindful.

I should be taking a cue from the child and not the other way around. And so I give myself a gentle reminder of the reasons we have consciously chosen a slower pace for our family. How nourishing it can be to give a child - and her parents - time to contemplate. Time to allow the day to play out on its own. Time to accomplish things one slow activity at a time.

We have just hit the highway when Cassie clamors from her car seat: "Mommy! We forgot to play the 'Three Little Pigs'!" She gasps in mock horror, leaving me to wonder where she got her sense of drama.

"We'll play when we get home," I say. "We'll have plenty of time."

And so we do.