I would still be getting sick from sheer exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
I would still be making my way through typed to-do lists and neglecting the most important tasks of life—like living and loving.
I would have missed the mama bird who tucked her nest in the corner of my porch.
I would have been in at least one fender bender (or worse) due my dangerous rushing and multitasking ways.
I would have given up on tangerines because they take too long to peel.
I would have missed a thousand conversations that just come when one sits still and waits for words to come.
But I didn’t miss any of them.
Thanks to her.
Embracing my daughter’s Enjoy-the-Journey approach to life didn’t just alter my actions and my behavior, it changed my perspective, transformed my thought-processes, and loosened the tightly wound fiber of my inner being.
Although I am a work in progress, the change in me has been quite remarkable. But there is something even more remarkable about this story. And it became apparent to me when a blog reader asked for an update. She wrote:
“I see it’s been several years since you wrote, “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’”. Did your daughter’s slow pace and ultra observant nature cause trouble in school? What is she like now? May I have an update? I have a Noticer and knowing how things turned out for your daughter would mean a great deal to me.”
As I began typing my response, unexpected tears fell on my keyboard. With clarity, I realized my transformation was secondary to an even bigger story—a story that could quite possibly bring solace and hope to those wondering if they too could let a loved one just be.
This is our story …
My Noticer received a low mark on her report card in kindergarten for being distracted in large groups. It was also reported that she often became preoccupied by what her desk neighbors were doing or feeling. It was also common for her to be last to turn in work, her teacher noted.
The person who would have been first to nip these issues in the bud, correct this behavior with a stern talk, or worry about such disappointing marks was the first person to be this child’s advocate. Although I was just beginning to free myself from my Life of Overwhelm, I was certain of one thing: The world needed more Noticers, and it would be my blessing to raise one.
For the first time in my life I decided that maybe the way the world wanted my child to be was not the way she should be.
Instead of seeing my child’s pace and ultra observant nature as a negative, I saw it as a positive. Because if my child was relishing the sunshine as she jogged with her P.E. class, that was good. Because if she took time to accurately complete her work, that was good. Because if she ate her lunch slowly and enjoyed every bite of that hummus wrap, that was good.
The naysayers’ voices on the Internet were loud. They said children who stop and smell the roses become a waste of everyone’s time. They said children who are permitted to set the pace become lazy and spoiled. They said children like my daughter will never hold down a job. They could be right, I decided. But the difference between her joy and my joy could not be denied. As a productivity-driven rusher, I spent much of my time frowning, controlling, stressing, and missing out. As a thoughtful traveler, my daughter spent most of her time smiling, delighting, connecting, and thriving. There was something therapeutic about the way she lived, and I desperately needed it. I decided to go against the mainstream and let my child be.
Today my daughter is finishing her second grade year. She is a voracious reader and loves helping children who struggle. She is in the Mastery Club—a program designed by her teacher for students who complete their classwork before others and enjoy self-guided learning projects. My child continues to sing and strum her beloved instrument and recently delighted the crowd with a rendition of “Peace” by O.A.R. at her recital. At swim team conditioning, she can be found in the middle of the pack with a big smile on her face. She picks out her outfits each morning, does her ponytail, and packs her school bag. She’s never missed the bus.
But here’s the news worth celebrating …
My daughter takes time to cuddle, hold doors open for strangers, and play with the cat. She calls her grandparents and finds it perfectly normal to have conversations that last for thirty minutes. When she signs birthday cards, she fills every square inch with vibrant colors and loving words. She stretches before she works out. She says prayers in great detail, never leaving anyone out. She remembers people’s names, asks questions, and listens intently. She freestyles on the guitar like Ed Sheeran and writes silly poetry like Shel Silverstein. She takes photos of me that capture beauty my critical eyes fail to see.
On Mother’s Day the two of us took a long walk. As I struggled to fall in line with her leisurely pace, I reminded myself who I was with. I reminded myself it was time to listen and learn from the greatest Life Coach I’ve ever known.
About midway through our walk, my daughter said, “When my team runs laps after swim practice, my favorite part comes right after the ‘No Parking’ sign. There’s a crack in the concrete where plants grow. Can you believe that? Plants growing out of concrete! That is my favorite part of the run.”
And as I do multiple times a day, I closed my tearful eyes and thanked God for this child who reminds me to look for the blessings in unexpected places.
I can’t help but consider what life would be like if I’d chosen to tell my child that slow was bad. Where would we be? The world would have two less Livers of Life. Our hearts would be less fulfilled. I would not be the author I am today. My life could have very well been cut short. Instead, I am blessed to experience the joys of life that used to elude me. But thanks to my daughter, I don’t miss them anymore.
So to the Noticers of the world and those who are blessed to raise them, I say this:
Thank you for being. You are an anomaly in this fast paced world. And we need you. We desperately need you …
To notice the birds and the bruises beneath the skin …
To notice the change of season and the one being left out …
To notice his name and remember to say it with love …
To notice the ripples on the water and the color of sky after sunset …
To notice the barista who could use a kind word.
Thank you, Noticers, big and small,
You are the thriving blossoms in a concrete world
Reminding us to stop and acknowledge our beating hearts every chance we can.
Family therapist and renowned author Susan Stiffelman believes children can be our greatest teachers. This is precisely what I’ve experienced on my Hands Free journey, but no one has ever explained the how and the why quite the way Susan does in Parenting with Presence. I found myself devouring every powerful insight she offered and immediately began using her suggested strategies to bring more harmony and whole-hearted engagement into every day life. Using Susan’s thought-provoking questions, relatable examples, and practical tools, I felt liberated from mistakes of the past and closer to the parent and person I aim to be.
In addition to opening us to more of the love, learning, and joy that children can bring into our lives, Parenting with Presence helps parents and kids:
- Manage stress
- Discover their passions
- Have more fun
- Be more present
- Improve communication
- Develop closer connection
- Silence the critical inner voice
- Treat oneself and each other with love & compassion
“If you step back and see everything in your life—including child-rearing—as opportunities to learn more about yourself and grow as a person then hardly anyone is as valuable a teacher as your child. Our love for our kids can motivate us to stretch and transform in ways nothing else might.” –Susan Stiffelman
Click here to learn more or order this truly transformative book. I strongly believe it is one of the most worthwhile gifts you can give your family and yourself.