It was a Sunday evening and the library was closing when I ushered my five-year-old and two-year-old out of the door. We were headed down the paved path from the library to the pond nearby to feed the ducks before heading home for dinner. I’ve always been a punctual person. I live by my watch. I keep schedules, deadlines, and even kept my due dates, going into labor naturally right on time with each of my baby boys. It’s a trait that doesn’t appear to have been passed on. Often times, it takes twenty minutes just to find shoes and fill water bottles to leave the house. I don’t know how many times I say the words “come on, hurry up” in one day.
I was just about to find myself saying them again, trying to catch up to my five-year-old who ran ahead down the path. I turned around and saw my toddler looking at the design on a stone pillar, tracing it with his hand. I opened my mouth, but the words didn’t come. I paused and watched his eyes, full of curiosity. He reached his arms out, wrapped them around the pillar and swung around it, smiling ear to ear. Then, he looked at the ground and walked along the cracks in the concrete slowly and carefully in my general direction. His attention was focused on the details that surrounded him. It was as if nothing else existed.
I glanced ahead to keep tabs on his older brother and then looked back to watch my toddler take it all in at his own pace. So much of his environment feels brand new. To me, a sidewalk is just a sidewalk and the cracks don’t mean a thing. I barely noticed the markings in the pillars as I breezed by, focused on my destination. But, there he was, looking, touching, listening.
I thought about all of the times I’d rushed him. All of the times I’d sighed and picked him up to carry him, thinking he wasn’t walking fast enough. How many times was that really necessary? It’s bad enough he has to try and keep up with his short chubby adorable little legs. His five-to-one strides make it difficult just to walk alongside any adult, but on top of that, he has to bypass all of the wonderful discovering there is to do. He’s left cracks unexplored and pillars untouched. He’s abandoned butterflies and roses, stepped over anthills, and waved longingly at lizards as I hurry in and out of buildings.
That day, I decided to slow down. I think it’s one of the most important lessons we can learn from our toddlers. Slow down. Take in the details every once in a while and wonder. I stopped wearing my watch on the weekends. Sure, I’ve been late to a few playdates, but I’ve smelled a few more roses, and the pillars in front of the library really are beautiful when you look at them up close. If that’s not a great excuse for being late, I don’t know what is.
By: Jessica Bautista