Hurry up and slow down – lessons from a three year old

By Sherry Duncangranddaughter

Every day I have the opportunity to live my life through the eyes of my precious, three year old granddaughter.  It is an opportunity to see a world of wonder, joy and optimism each and every day. At the end of my day, before I head home, I have the joy of picking her up from childcare at 5:30 (a privilege not available to many grandparents who are separated by distance or opportunity).  She has many questions and sometimes it is a repeat of the day before.  Her most recent queries include “Why don’t the trees have leaves?”, “Where is the snow going?”  and “Where is your mom Nanny?”

Some questions are easier to answer than others.  The trees are naked I tell her and she giggles.  They are waiting patiently for the snow to melt into the ground so that the leaves will grow again.  As a result of this conversation I can hardly wait for buds to bloom.  I find myself looking to the edge where the sidewalk meets the snow to see if there is any sign of green grass at the corners.  I take a mental note to devise a way to allow her to discover the green grass and new tree buds on her own. The question about my mom is a little harder to answer.  My own mom died when I was nine.  So how do I tell my granddaughter that sometimes a mom dies when you are little and not terrify her that this might happen to her mom? I could tell her that sometimes you die when you get old but then what does she think the next time someone teases me by saying “you’re getting old”.  So I tell her that my mom died because her heart was not working right. One day it stopped and the doctors were not able to fix it then she died.  The truth seems to work, which satisfies her for now.

We continue our trip from Timberlea to Thickwood in silence.  As we near our corner she sees the Mac’s Store.  “Can I have a slushy today Nanny?”  It’s -15 (a great day for a slushy) so we stop at the corner store to get one.

As we drive back and forth every day, I look for opportunities to make connections, have rich conversations and explore the world as it passes by outside the car windows.  Our most recent favourite activity is identifying and counting the busses; school, work or city.  Right now she is so fascinated by the many busses in our city that last Saturday I took her to MacDonald Island to watch busses come and go.  For $1.25 we rode the city bus around in a big circle from MI to the main station and back again. This is thrilling for a 3 year old and her Nanny! Watching people get on and off the bus, the doors open and close and the bell ring was all new and exciting for the curious three year old beside me, her little legs swinging freely back and forth under the seat.  We travelled around the circuit twice and then she told me she was done and it was time to get off so we did.

Of course, there are the comments on every day events that demonstrates the way in which my grandchild experiences the world.   When you are three, everything happens “now”.  There is little concern for tomorrow.  No real worry about yesterday.  In the world of now, there is cause for pause and wonder.  The first day that it was really nice outside last week, water was dripping from a variety of corners on buildings.  Upon seeing water dripping from a roof gutter as we passed by, she stopped in her tracks and tilted her head to the side.  I encouraged her to keep moving (so we could get where we were going) but she made me stop.  “Listen Nanny” she whispered,  “it sounds like a quiet drum”.   We stood there quietly watching and listening to the water droplets.   She was right, it did sound like a quiet drum.

How often are we in such a hurry that simple moments such as the sound of water drops, the first signs of spring or other wonders of nature are quickly passed by as we are in a hurry to live our lives?  How many moments do we rush through, missing opportunities to marvel or connect with others in a meaningful way? We scurry to get from one activity or meeting to the next.  We have become so attached to cell phones and technology that they are often hard to put down for any length of time.   I have heard of lunch meetings where all attendees have to place their phones in the middle of the table.  The first person removing their phone has to pay for lunch.  Love this idea!

I feel a little sad when I go out for supper and look around to see many people eyes down on their phones despite a table full of people right there.  What can be more important than the people who are at the table with you?  Are we losing the ability to talk about what is going on in our lives that is not a status update or tweet?  As adults, how are we modeling the ability to socialize; the ability to talk about the weather, city issues, local news, national politics or holiday celebrations.  The art of telling a story about our youth, our family our greatest joys or deepest fears? We must be able to share our hopes and dreams with those who will listen and then listen as they share theirs. This is how we make connections. How can the person with me be of so little value that I prefer to text a person who is not with me?  Signs tell us “Please don’t text while placing your order” yet something has happened to make it socially acceptable to text during the middle of a conversation with another person, or answer a phone to talk to someone else.  In some cases, we can even put that person on hold to answer a call from another person. Are we as a society in such a hurry that we have to multitask whenever possible, even at the risk of ignoring those who are sitting right beside us ready to give us their full attention right now?

Last spring my grandchild stopped on the sidewalk and laid down, putting her cheek directly on the cool cement.  The adult in me wanted her to get up and keep going.  Instead, I resisted the urge to hurry her up and chose instead to sit on the sidewalk beside her.  I didn’t ask questions – I just sat and observed.  She looked up at me and smiled “Look Nanny, I’m watching the ants go to school”.   I shall treasure this memory forever.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” John Burroughs