At the end of every day, I wait in the lobby of the elementary school for my ten year old son. This year, in Grade 5, I’ve stopped going down to his locker to get him ready. Other moms don’t do that, he informs me. So I sit on a chair and wait at the front.
Dismissal time is at 3 pm. At 3:25 or so, Aaron appears, a half grin on his face, loping calmly down the hall with his hands clasped behind his back.
In the time between 3:00 and 3:25 pm, I watch the action at the front door. There’s a whoosh of parents hurrying their kids along. They are zipping up coats, jamming on boots and pulling by arms to hurry to their cars to speed away. I wonder what after-school activity they are rushing to.
In a school where the student population is over 800, we are often the last people to leave. We meander home, which is just across the street. It takes a good ten minutes. We carefully scramble down the mountain of snow at the entrance of the playground. We stop to check for mail in the community mailbox. We inspect every piece of mail, and Aaron collects the pizza and fast food coupons. We tiptoe on the ice to avoid slipping. Aaron identifies the make and model of every vehicle we pass, and tells me what kind of car he wants when he has a girlfriend. (Usually a red convertible, sometimes a white pick-up truck). We walk slowly, slowly together until we reach the steps of our front veranda and we are home.
Aaron has Down syndrome. He is of short legs, low muscle tone, and slow firing neurons. His rotund body is not built for speed. There is a direct correlation between the more I try to hurry him and the slower he goes. When I was pregnant with him, my third child, I wished that I could be a more patient mom. I got my wish with Aaron.
Yesterday, at the Children’s Autism conference, I had the good fortune to hear Carl Honoré speak. I read his book, In Praise of Slow just after Aaron was born, and his words resonated even before the tsunami of today’s technology left us gasping for air. I think of him as a prophet, and his message is even more relevant in 2014.
Carl said that slow is considered taboo. Slow is lazy, unproductive and stupid. I realize this is how society views children like my son, who are slow, too.
Honoré also spoke of the delicious paradox of slow. If we work less, we work better. Slow energizes our minds and leads to creativity and eureka moments. Multi-tasking makes us less productive. Doing one thing at a time ensures that we do things well. There’s a backlash against The Busy Trap, and this is the Slow movement: Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Cities. In the parenting realm, Honoré wrote a book called Under Pressure, and Kate Wilson published a beautiful essay on the Bloom blog called Finding time to just breathe. The Hands Free Mama speaks of unplugging as a parent. In the mainstream world, yoga and meditation have become wildly popular. Is there hope for slow?
If there is hope for slow, is there hope that society will recognize the value in my youngest son, who has much to teach us about slowing down? Will parents stop pushing past us on the sidewalk on the way to school? Will people wait more patiently while Aaron tries to form his words to answer a question? Will less competitive options in community recreation pop up where gentler, slower instructions are the norm? Could we slow down our 110 km/hour world to my son’s strolling pace? I truly hope so.
Honoré said that every child has a tempo giusto. This means that every child has their own metronome. He says it is up to us to understand that metronome, and to honour it. Aaron’s metronome ticks back and forth very slowly. If you open your heart and follow his lead, maybe yours will tick more slowly too.