Slow Down. Reconnect.
It's Easier than You Think.
The hectic pace of everyday life can keep families constantly on the go, but removing some of the frenzy is easy—if you just take a moment to slow down. Hit the pause button on all of life's daily distractions and reconnect with your family in familiar and exciting ways. Parenting and family expert Susan Sachs Lipman shows you the enormous benefits of having a slower paced, more connected family. Packed with simple, affordable, and delightful games, crafts, and activities, Fed Up with Frenzy will help you spend more distraction—free time with your children. Slow down and reconnect with your family by:
Creating your own outdoor theater
Experimenting with kitchen science
Playing nature games
Making placemats from fall leaves
"Fed Up with Frenzy is a blueprint for any family that feels overwhelmed by the pace of contemporary life." —Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO, KaBOOM!
"The heart of parenting is connection, but how do parents and children connect when they are going a mile a minute in different directions? Read this book, stop the frenzy, and reconnect." —Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD, author of Playful Parenting
"Fed up with Frenzy is a welcome corrective to a society that has turned childhood into a race to nowhere. With charm, energy and wit, Susan Lipman serves up a treasure trove of ideas to bring joy and sanity back to family life. Every parent needs a copy."—Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness and Under Pressure
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
At soccer games and birthday parties, in school hallways and other places parents congregate, our conversations are often the same: many of us feel that we are running around and doing more together than ever, yet somehow enjoying our family time less. We often find ourselves isolated, distracted, plugged into electronic devices, performing chores, driving, and multitasking—and our family lives tend to reflect that. Chaos, rather than calm, is the norm.
A decade ago, when my daughter, Anna, entered elementary school, I distinctly realized that something wasn’t right. Our lives, and the lives of many families around us, were off balance. Parents seemed frazzled and hurried, spending more time transporting our children and dropping them off than actually playing or even being with them. Our children seemed to do specific, monitored, often goal-oriented activities instead of playing freely. There were arranged playdates, lessons, and sports practices; yet despite all the organizing and hovering, many of us went about the task of parenting relatively alone and unfulfilled.
I yearned for a life filled with creativity and play; true connection with my family, my community, and myself; and an enjoyment of small observations and moments that comes from slowing down enough to notice them. I wasn’t experiencing those types of connections and moments because I was too busy planning, scheduling, and driving. I was too busy with the future to notice the present, too busy with the calendar and the to-do list to stop and chat in the market or between activities. And, frankly, others seemed quite busy, too. I began to wonder just what the rush was, and whether slowing down might help me and my family become more connected and calm.
My family had experienced some of the connection and community I sought during Anna’s preschool years—so much so that the pace and expectations of elementary school life seemed jarring. It was as if the ground beneath us had transformed from a meandering, woodsy path into a rapidly moving walkway. We suddenly struggled to keep up.
Anna’s preschool, Kumara School, had emphasized process over product. For the most part, the children directed their own play, in nature and with art materials that were simple and often natural or recycled. Anna spent about a year being fascinated with adhesive tape—pulling, cutting, and laying it down on paper, creating cardboard box-and-tube cameras and “candy machines.” She didn’t seem to need or want anything more expensive, complicated, or “educational” than that. I’ve found that this and similar observations often occur when we slow down, adjust our ideas about what is normal or expected, and let our children and our own instincts guide us.
Even with a small child, society sometimes informed us that we’d better hurry and get on a schedule, or else she would be left behind, from kindergarten on up to college. We had visited other preschools in which kids sat on specific cushions and learned the letters of the alphabet, in order to get ready for kindergarten. I instinctively felt that Anna would learn best by playing and that traditional academics could wait. I was well on my way to entering a slower parenting style that didn’t adhere to schedules of education and child development, which had sped up dramatically since my own childhood.
As a young family with a preschool child, we had time to garden, visit farms, make jam, create art, and celebrate the seasons. With Anna’s school community, we welcomed each summer and winter solstice and many holidays with songs, stories, rituals, and food, much the way people have been bearing witness to the changing seasons and honoring life’s mysteries for thousands of years. We connected with a burgeoning group called Sustainable Mill Valley that was championing better use of resources, local food, and other goods; stewardship of our beautiful land and town; and community gathering and bartering. We had friends of many generations, professions, backgrounds, and beliefs.
And then something changed. With elementary school, we entered a world that seemed frenzied and heavily scheduled. Parents appeared to be models of efficiency, whipping out day planners to plan their kids’ playdates, carving time from busy schedules for the many child-centered appointments, activities, and meetings. Although I knew Anna couldn’t stay a preschooler forever, I missed the ease, fun, and organic community that that period of her life had offered our family and wondered whether this new way was the sole alternative.
My feelings of unease mounted one morning as I sat in my car near the school drop-off curb, engine running, waiting my turn to deposit Anna at school. Other parents inched up, one per car, in the chaos of traffic—some honking, some cutting in aggressively, some visibly upset. Passenger car doors opened and slammed shut. A volunteer parent hustled children out of their cars and onto the sidewalk. The youngest children, who appeared dwarfed by their brightly colored backpacks, wound their way into the school in a sort of daze.
This ritual is a necessary feature at suburban schools across America that offers busy parents the opportunity to let their children out of their cars without having to park, leave the driver’s seat, or turn off the ignition. The drop-off, and the pickup at day’s end, are designed for maximum efficiency. Signs tell us, “Drop, Don’t Stop.”
The abrupt transition didn’t feel right to me. I decided that, even though I was a busy working and volunteering parent, my schedule wasn’t so packed that I couldn’t find fifteen minutes to help my daughter (and, by extension, myself) make a more graceful transition to school. I started parking the car a few blocks from the school and walking in with her. We felt the change immediately. In those few minutes walking to and from school, we made observations and talked about the day. We enjoyed the smells of wild onions in the spring and wood-burning fireplaces in the winter and fall. We met people who lived in the neighborhood, and we greeted fellow parents and students as they poured through the school’s gates.
I believe that that small act profoundly changed our lives. As Anna became older, we walked longer distances, then she walked and biked to school by herself. There were still hurried mornings when I was grateful for the drop-off curb. But we also found community and created memories and joy by intentionally sidestepping frenzy, by choosing to slow one particular part of our day and routine to get something back that was incredibly full. To this day, the smell of the wild onions near the school will remind us of the fun we had walking that little bit and the lifelong friends we made during that special period.
A few years later, when Anna was in the fourth and fifth grades, her Girl Scout troop would meet down the street from her school at the conveniently located Scout Hall. This provided another opportunity for neighborhood walking, and the girls loved to walk the few safe blocks to the hall. It was wonderful for them to have fun together and get a little exercise and fresh air after school. Along the way, they marched, sang, and waved to shopkeepers and at passing drivers, who waved back. I saw the girls learn things about their town and neighbors, things that you can learn only when you slow your pace enough to allow for observation and connection, as well as for roots to form.
For some of the girls, scout meetings offered a rare opportunity to walk in their town. Yet parents invariably arrived at the school at meeting time, offering to drive everyone the few blocks to Scout Hall. They thought the meeting could start more quickly that way, that time would be used more efficiently. They could drop the girls off, run errands, and pick them up again at meeting’s end, and no one would have to walk. I protested: Walking was part of the meeting. It provided the girls with fun, relatively unstructured, and meaningful time together. Walking, as an activity, had value. In time, the other parents, especially those who walked with us, began to agree.
When well-meaning parents experience their days as a race against time, much is actually lost. Many of us want more connection and meaning in our families’ lives, but we remain too busy to even think about achieving those things. Nearly half of Americans bring work home with them regularly. Working mothers spend a whopping 40 percent of their waking hours multitasking. Children have roughly half the free time that they did thirty years ago.
And then there are a great number of us who are constantly plugged into electronics. How many times have you been somewhere and seen a whole family, each of whom is individually texting or playing a game on his or her own device? Perhaps you’ve wished your own family was more connected to one another and less to technology. Instead of freeing us, technology, for work and for pleasure, has created a culture in which many of us are afraid to unplug, for fear of missing something. It turns out that, instead, what we wind up missing is a life of family connection and joy.
Slowing down has offered me, my family, and the kindred spirits in my community the blessings of greater family memories and closeness, more enjoyment of lost arts and activities, and, more often than not, the kinds of happy and successful children that we had hoped to foster through our unintentional anxiety and over-scheduling.
The threads of encouraging free play; using resources wisely to help the planet and ourselves; getting better in touch with our food, land, and lives; reclaiming lost, tactile arts; and forming healthy communities and loving families have all woven loosely together into something called the Slow Movement. Many trace the Slow Movement’s origins to Italy and the Slow Food movement, which came about as a response to quickly prepared and consumed fast food. The Slow Cities movement, also from Italy, followed, to encourage thoughtful urban planning and use that is designed to get people walking, convening, enjoying local goods and services, and slowing down as a result. Today, there are designated slow cities all over the world. Carl Honoré wrote In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. More books and slow groups followed. More people decided to try something different. And their ideas took on the force of a movement.
While exploring the slow life for my own family, I came across and learned from a community of authors and mentors. Those resources are included in the Resources section of the book.
The more I read, the more I talked to people who desired to take a similar path, and the more I tried to walk that path myself, the more my family experienced enhanced presence, community, spontaneity, play, and simply time together. By making choices to eliminate a couple of organized activities and commitments, we made time to take long family hikes, make televisions out of shoe boxes, and float origami boats down a local creek after the spring rains. By shifting away from the culture of hurriedness, we made time to open our lives to enhanced wonder, connection, and joy.
As Carl Honoré writes, the Slow Movement is not about crawling at a snail’s pace. Rather, it is about doing things at the right speed for you. It’s about choosing how to spend time and then savoring the moments, rather than rushing through them.
In the years since my family has slowed down, I’ve noticed a slight change in other families, too. Perhaps a critical mass of us also felt off balance. Perhaps many of us have even decided to say “Enough!” to super-parenting and consumerism and running around (I call it “racing to yoga”) and not being happy anyway. Perhaps you count yourself in this group.
Why Become a Slow Parent?
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Slow Activities
Make Something That Goes
Put on a Show
Create a Secret Code
Make Your Own Invisible Ink
Run a Lemonade Stand Like a Pro
Camp in Your Backyard
Show an Outdoor Movie
Chapter 2: Slow Games
More Timeless Games
Team-Building and Icebreaker Games
Safe, Fun, and Drama-Free Ways to Choose Teams
Chants for Choosing It
Chapter 3: Slow Crafts
Classic Scout Crafts
Homemade Craft Supplies
Chapter 4: Slow Kitchen
April Fools' Food
Chapter 5: Slow Garden
Ready Your Plot
Nurture a Budding Gardener
Partake in a Great Gardening Project
Create Garden Art
Dry Flowers and Herbs
Chapter 6: Slow Nature
Play Nature Games
Make Nature Crafts
Gaze at the Night Sky
Enjoy Timeless Pursuits
Take a Hike
Chapter 7: Slow Seasons
Chapter 8: Slow Celebrations
Crafts and Rituals for Special Times
Crafts and Rituals to Honor Family
Chapter 9: Slow Travel
Play Travel Games
Travel by Train
Travel by RV
Chapter 10: Everyday Slow
Chapter 11: Slow Parenting
About the Author