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At a Child's Pace

I was a Lowe’s with my youngest daughter the other day. She just turned three, and I decided to take her with me on a wood shop supply run. There’s nothing like a dad spending one-on-one time with his daughter, especially when she’s as adorable as my little Sadie.

Nevertheless, I am a fast-walking, get-er-done and get-back-to-what-you-were-doing-before kind of guy. I don’t like to waste time, and I don’t like to smell the roses. Well, Sadie is quite the opposite of me in this regard. Indeed, she is a girl whose “life pace” is roughly that of a sloth or millipede. She likes to take her time, she likes to explore aimlessly, and, yes, if there were roses, she would not only smell them, but she would take the time to feel, pick, and de-petal them…one by one.

So, time and time again as we walked around the store, I would realize that I was way ahead of her and would have to stop and wait on her or, in some cases, I would have to turn around and go get her because she decided to stop and play with something or explore another aisle. I have to admit, after 20 minutes of dancing this dance, I was a bit frazzled and, I’ll admit, frustrated.

As we were walking out to the car after checkout, I had it in my mind to carry her in order to speed things up a bit. But I didn’t; I let her walk. Sadie doesn’t like to be carried; she’s quite the independent gal. So, once again, I found myself ahead of her. Yet, this time when I turned around to go get her, I was taken by another emotion—nostalgia…but of an odd sort. Like the future perfect tense of a verb, it was almost as if I were transported into the future where I looked back on Sadie’s childhood and said, “Man, I wish I had spent more quality time with her! I wish I had been a better, more patient dad. I wish I had not been so intent on rushing through life. I wish I had smelled the roses with her. I wish . . .” Indeed, in that moment, I realized that Sadie had the right pace all along. She wasn’t too slow; I was too fast. She was enjoying life, and, I’m almost embarrassed to say, I think she was enjoying her solo time out with dad. I had missed something relationally that she had grasped fully: people are more important than time and task.

Children have a way of taking us to the woodshed, don’t they? Sure, I’m the dad. I’m “the man in her life” at this point. I’m generally the teacher in the relationship, and she’s generally the pupil. So, there’s little doubt that Sadie learned some things from me on our trip: where Lowe’s keeps trim routers in stock, how long it takes to frustrate dad, how fast a long-legged adult male can walk, etc. But I can assure you that she taught me so much more.

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