Sometimes you just have to slow down. If I had been dead-set on attending a recent 8:30 service at the church where I teach preschool, I would have missed out on some memorable tales told by my little neighbors.
Jack and his sister Libby had acquired two crawfish, which they called “crawlfishies” – because they can crawl, don’t you see? The kids and their parents had gone to a party the day before. The hosts had flown in 90 pounds of crawfish, but the children had zero interest in eating the little creatures. Instead, they chose to pick favorites, race them and claim them as their pets. The take-home mini lobsters were better than any ordinary goody bag.
The pets reminded me of seeing sand fiddlers on the Carolina coast, I told Jack and Libby. The sand fiddlers, tiny and gray and see-throughish, used to scare me as they skittered about on the sand in the early mornings. Jack offered to let me hold his new pet but, repulsed, I declined. It was a little too similar to those creepy-crawlies I saw as a kid.
I missed that church service, but got to see something miraculous anyway – a child’s care, enthusiasm and imagination. Libby’s crawfish, which she named Pinchy, got a leafy dress, a hat and a table made out of a pebble. The weather was warm, but Libby decided her crustacean also needed tiny leaf mittens.
If I had been in too big of a hurry that Sunday morning – the same morning as a local commencement ceremony – I would have missed out on the opportunity to congratulate an acquaintance on her grandson’s graduation from Davidson College. She was dressed up, proud and oh so thrilled about the accomplishment of her grandson, but nervous about making it to the ceremony on time. I’m glad I wasn’t too rushed to answer her nearly desperate query: “How many stoplights away is the graduation?” The good news was that only one stoplight stood between her and this family milestone. Nearby, a batch of cousins walked four across the sidewalk, making it hard to pass them as they talked about another cousin’s graduation. What had their cousin majored in, I asked them? “I have no idea,” one replied, “but he is graduating.”
If I had been in a hurry the day before that, I might not have seen a lost, weeping child. I might have missed little Ruthie running a lemonade stand, saying “Where is the trash box?” instead of “cash box.” I might have missed Della twirling and smiling but steadfastly refusing to explain why she, and others, were standing out in the rain.
Some of us are geared to see the big picture: organizing graduation ceremonies or coordinating lemonade-stand fundraisers. Others don’t plan ahead; we’re more in the moment of what children are doing and saying. Both roles are necessary, but at least some of the time, make yourself stop, look and listen to your kids without interrupting or intervening.
Make yourself slow down. Otherwise, you might miss something miraculous.
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., is a mother and preschool teacher. If you have tips or questions, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Parent to Parent at 704-236-9510.