Summer can be a time to reconnect for some families; for others a time of hectic organization and activity juggling. “Slow Parenting” is a parenting philosophy which has developed over the last decade, in reaction to a perception that childhood has become too timetabled. The movement advocates for fewer scheduled activities, with more loose, unstructured family time, and simple, mindful activities, over shuttling kids between multiple daily commitments such as extra tutoring, classes, and sports.
A recent article in the Boston Globe on the phenomenon prompted fresh debate online on the merits of slowing down. We asked one Beijing-based mom, Australian Melissa Vescio, for her thoughts on the issue and her opinion on what makes for a balanced parenting style.
Vescio and her husband Scott Mollan have been living in Beijing on and off for the past 11 years. Mollan’s job brought them here, and they love it here so much that they are currently on their second stint in the city. Vescio volunteers for International Newcomer’s Network (INN) and Mollan is Executive Creative Director for Publicis Advertising Agency. Their twins Axl and Madeline Mollan (age 4) attend Xin Zhong Jie Kindergarten, and enjoy much the same ratio of scheduled and unscheduled time as Vescio did as a kid, about 70 percent free, unplanned time, and 30 percent planned.
“I think too many kids are over scheduled from a young age these days,” says Vescio. “They should be allowed to be kids, and play outside or with their toys, or spend time as a family.”
Vescio is not a fan of signing kids up for a lot of extracurricular activities. “Too many scheduled activities take away from quality kid-time,” she says. “They need to learn things independently. And like anyone, they need time to chill and discover things on their own.”
In their free time the Vescio-Mollan family mostly likes to simply hang out together: “Family meals, the pool or park, drawing, cooking, bike riding, toy playing, puzzles, watching movies together…” Vescio believes in continuing the uncomplicated and minimally timetabled parenting style of her own childhood.
In the Boston Globe article, John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of “The Available Parent,” encourages parents to “take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.”
Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Vescio-Mollan