It’s a Friday morning and time to run errands in the big city. Before we leave the house, I cycle through the various routes, selecting the most efficient option. Our departure time is calculated carefully, accounting for bathroom breaks, finding shoes, and getting out the door. Along the way, seconds are shaved off our travel time as I select the best lane, optimal cruise speed, and maneuver around slower traffic.
This is how my mind works, always working for optimization. I plan, recompute, and adjust my day to get things done in the best possible way. It just happens. For most things, that’s fine. We safely and efficiently move through our errands, check tasks off of my list, and get more stuff done.
In parenting, efficiency isn’t always the right choice.
I can clean the kitchen, wash the cars, and reorganize my closet with speed and precision on my own, but should I? Shouldn’t I let my two-year old pull dishes out of the clean dishwasher, one at a time, at random, instead of insisting on pulling out entire category groups? She’s so gleeful to help.
I can go to the office and knock out an hour’s worth of work in 45 minutes, but shouldn’t I take my son along with me to check out an airplane, and play with his LEGOs while I work? He’ll ask questions, share his thoughts, and slow me down. It’s not efficient, but is it better?
I can wash a car in 90 minutes, getting it to showroom perfection, but shouldn’t I let my daughter pick up the hose and go a little crazy? Shouldn’t I hand her the wash mit and let her take some of the dirt off of the car, too?
We all remember that point in time when we realized that our parents were their own people. They have their own thoughts, needs, hopes, and dreams. As children, our minds weren’t able to comprehend that others have the same desires that we have. Now on the other side of that equation, I can see into my children’s minds, but they cannot yet see into mine.
I’m a very efficient person, but when it comes to each day and each task, it’s okay if I invite my children into my world, and I perform at a level just a few notches below peak.