Carl Honoré is the author of “The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfillment Beyond the Cult of Speed,” and, more recently, “Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting." His book and philosophy resonated deeply with me—although I must admit to moving too fast to read his book!
This week, I read an interesting review of the book on Motherlode and Lisa Belkin's post includes a couple of terrific interview excerpts from a conversation with the author about Slow Parenting that I wanted to share.
First, he explained the meaning of Slow Parenting—which is far more sophisticated than just a decree to move at a snail’s pace. Carl says:
"To me, Slow parenting is about bringing balance into the home. Children need to strive and struggle and stretch themselves, but that does not mean childhood should be a race. Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms. They keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together. They accept that bending over backwards to give children the best of everything may not always be the best policy. Slow parenting means allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be."
Later in the interview, he explains the root causes of Slow Parenting. I had to read this segment twice--because there is a lot of information, and wisdom, in it. It also made me a bit nervous. Because reflecting on the notion that we’ve lost confidence as parents, and our sense of intuition, is discomfiting. Is that why we’re so obsessed with expert opinions and what everyone else is doing? Carl explains the issue beautifully when he said:
"We have stumbled into a unique moment in the history of childhood where we feel immense pressure to give our children the best of everything and make them the best at everything – to give them a “perfect” childhood.
We got here because a number of trends have converged at the same time to produce a cultural perfect storm. The rise of globalization has brought more competition and uncertainty to the workplace – which makes us more anxious about equipping our kids for adult life. The consumer culture has reached a kind of apotheosis in recent years and the net effect is to create a culture of soaring expectations: we now want perfect teeth, perfect hair, a perfect body, perfect vacations, a perfect home – and perfect children to round off the portrait.
Demographics have also changed in ways never seen before in history. Smaller families mean we have more time and money to lavish on each child. Parents are more anxious because small families give them less experience of parenting and put their genetic eggs in fewer baskets. Women are having babies much older than ever before, and that can add another layer of worry. If your first pregnancy comes at 38 or 39, then you may well have spent long years fretting over and planning for the child. And if something goes wrong you may not be able to have another one to make up for it. So there is a built-in anxiety from the start.
Parents of both genders are having kids older, or after many years in the workplace. As a result, we end up importing the office ethos into the home. We think, “Well, how can we parent better? Why don’t we do what we do at work when we want to improve our performance: bring in the experts, spend lots of money and put in long hard hours – we will professionalize parenting.”
The bottom line is that parents in this generation have lost their confidence. That makes us easy prey for companies hawking unnecessary tools for childrearing (helmets to protect two-year-olds from toddling injuries, anyone?). And very vulnerable to pressure from other parents (“What, you mean your child doesn’t have a tutor?!?”).
I’ll have to read the book and slowly incorporate some of the themes into my life with Ayla. I’ll report on any progress in this blog. In the interim, I’d love to know if others are practicing Slow Parenting and whether it’s making a difference.