For those of you who don’t know us or haven’t had chance to read about our family. We have four children, our 1st two children Finlay & Daisy arrived in 2006 and at the end of 2008. We then had a bit more of a gap and 4 1/2 years later our 3rd child Teddy was born in 2013, followed by our 4th Florence in 2016. We sometimes refer to our little two as our mini Finlay & Daisy! Our parenting styles and techniques have naturally changed over the years with experience, knowledge, and reflection as we change and get older. We certainly expected more from our first child, rushing earnestly through to each stage at a reasonably fast pace. I think this is generally the case with most 1st borns. Daisy our second arrived and as she was such a chilled out baby she generally went with the flow. Going from one to two took some adjusting but being a person who thrives on being busy, I was soon out and about on preschool runs, toddler groups and various other social activities. Throwing into the mix a change of career from recruitment to childcare, I retrained and before I knew it was running a childcare business from home with 10 children on my books. Weekends were spent catching up with family, shopping and socialising. There were times when we would go on holiday, camp and explore but for the most part we didn’t spend our weekends focusing on family time and simple things.
Our lives then changed as we were told in spring 2012 that we would be relocating to a fairly remote part of Germany with my husband’s job. So in the summer of 2012 we embarked on a whole new adventure and way of life. Culturally a lot was different to our lives over here, their lifestyle is mostly outdoors, with outdoor pools, barefoot parks, great children’s play areas, fab picnic areas, manmade beaches and a distinct lack of shops. We spent nearly every weekend for 18 months on our own as a family, and with no shops open on a Sunday and a much more chilled out vibe we quickly realised we loved all these things- apart from no online food shopping! I learnt to take Dougie’s advice and enjoy being in the house and letting the children just be around their things rather than being busy running from errand to activity every weekend. I also loved spending time outside and quickly became a picnic expert and was always prepared with waterproofs and other essential outdoor gear (there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!). From this change in lifestyle I saw how much the kids gained from spending an afternoon exploring and picnicking rather than having them wandering around the town centre shopping and lunching out with us or going to the latest film or other expensive activities. Our bank balance improved for us to spend money in other ways and our kids have become so much better at waiting and appreciating the simpler things in life.
Fast forward to now and living back in the UK we sometimes slip up and take a faster pace of life and sometimes it’s difficult not to if the calendar gets full. As soon as this happens I feel a little overwhelmed and see that the children are exhausted, the little ones are having to be rushed from one place to the next keeping up with us all. We have learnt in the last year to say ‘no’ to a few things and clear the diary down a lot and this has been vital for my own sanity. Tying to organise a family of our size around social engagements is tough in terms of grocery, washing, travelling and other admin that is required in order to have time out the house. Overall we manage to have quieter weekends / holidays quite well as school aged children need this as much as us busy parents. I re-evaluate and reflect by writing down what works for us and what doesn’t work so I can remind myself how to keep life more simple. We are more realistic with time management and factor in extra time so we don’t have to rush routine days or days off. This means that I reduce rushing the kids about too much and I’m now more aware of this as Teddy gets anxious when he’s rushed. With more time in the day I try and stop to look at the little things that he points out to me and try not to say ‘come on’ too much and let him stop to pick a flower etc.
Our activities here in Lancashire are still mainly based around being outdoors and focus around outdoor picnics/snacks to keep everyone fuelled when out and about. I now love looking at the small things in life in particular nature as it does so much for my own mindfulness as well as all the family, fresh air is so good for the soul and just stopping and looking at something makes me feel more thankful. Recently we had a late summer trip to the beach which turned out to be one of the nicest beach days weather wise we have had up north, and as we left the beach I turned to my Mum and said look back at the beach view and just take a minute to look and appreciate the day, this turned out to be the last glimpse of Summer and this has stayed with me. I’m really trying to live in the now and do little things as life whizzes past so quickly these days that I want to try and embrace my children’s childhood and my own life experiences.
It was only recently that we came across the term ‘slow parenting’ and we realised that we fell into this parenting technique in many ways. We also found we analysed our parenting style more after being around other like minded families that have influenced our parenting styles. I hope this is a bit of an insight on how slow parenting found us, we are constantly learning how to slow parent, what works and what doesn’t. How we parent as our chidren’s demands change as they get older and with the expansion of our family with our baby.