We were eating breakfast yesterday when I noticed something Dawn told me a couple weeks ago. I said to her back then that I was trying to get the boy’s breakfast done. She asked if I was going somewhere. I wasn’t.
That small exchange reminded me of something that came back yesterday morning. The boy teaches me, in small and big ways, to slow down, to resist rushing.
We were eating again. There’s something about eating that speeds me up or, in this case, slows me down. The morning routine is routine. We get up. I complain and grumble and mutter for an hour or so until I can find my words. At the same time, the boy runs around. He sings. He runs one of his trucks down the small hallway. He pushes that mower thing and I say stop. Then we get dressed. Sometimes that means the boy showers with me. Most times he’s already been bathed the night before and simply needs to change clothes. He’ll run to me when my shower stops. We’ll finish our father and son routine. After we’re dressed, he’ll ask for breakfast. I’ll get things together, explaining how much quicker things would go if he were able to help. He looks at me in that confusing-but-knowing way.
Breakfast is on the table. I start with helping him pick up his spoon. We transition to him eating himself. I’m eating my food; he’s eating his. His spoons are filled with smaller heaps of oatmeal. I’m almost done with mine. At one point I thought about my wife’s comment. Where are you going? What do you have to do?
I read Parker Palmer last summer. I think it was The Active Life. It may have been Hidden Wholeness. I read both of them in preparation for a class, and I bleed the memory together of both books. But there was a part where he was describing contemplation. If memory’s right, contemplation has to do with being present. With living in the present. Often you get at contemplation by solitude or by practicing something like silence—which no parent can conceivably do. He said that contemplation could be anything, that it could be any activity, not just sitting. It wasn’t a particular type of activity or inactivity. Living contemplatively looked differently and it looked like a lot of things potentially.
I’ve thought about being a contemplative parent. I’ve thought about living with an awareness of myself and my son and my family. I don’t want to rush through life or through the stages of life with the boy. And then there’s breakfast.
Breakfast pulls me into the routine and the schedule. It pushes me to the familiar, and the familiar isn’t contemplation. I can learn contemplation and practice it, but it’s work. It’s hard to not rush through breakfast. It’s hard to not rush through everything else. It’s tempting to move through it all without being aware or being present. But yesterday when I thought about Dawn’s question, I slowed down. I gave the boy back his spoon. I took a deep breath and watched him eat. I watched him turn his head and talk about nothing I could understand. I let the boy rule that part of the meal. And it was slow. And it was everything I needed, even if I didn’t want it.