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Do One Thing at Once

Don't expect to be at one with your universe after you've read this article. No matter what you do, you'll never find serenity on the scale of a Dalai Lama (remember, he doesn't have kids) or even a Florence Henderson (she had help).

No, the objectives here are modest: To slow down -- not every day, not all the time, but some of the time. I, for one, am tired of rushing myself and my children through the days and nights of our only lifetime together: "Hurry up and get ready for bed, so we can hurry up and read together, so we can hurry up and get some sleep, so we can hurry up and wake up and start all over again ¿" Should life be such a rat race when you're 3 -- or 30?

By the end of this article, you may have no deeper knowledge of nirvana than the band, but you will have some concrete suggestions to temper the frenetic pace of life. You'll feel more relaxed, and gradually, you'll notice deeper benefits, too. Slowing down, it turns out, allows us to live more in the moment. It's true that when you stop rushing around, you get less done. But you also get more moments, and yes, these are the moments of your life.

Do less
Creative movement on Mondays, pre-K soccer on Tuesdays, playdates on Wednesdays, Mommy and Me on Thursdays -- have you been there, done that, and that, and that? We all want to enrich our children's lives. My eldest's first "class" was Infant Massage. Although Madeline was just 3 months old, I was sure she needed those baby tensions rubbed away.

But when the schedule gets so crowded that it causes more pain than pleasure for parents and kids, something's got to give. "Our lists are too packed, and so we've got to unpack the lists," says Kirk Byron Jones, Ph.D., author of Addicted to Hurry: Spiritual Strategies for Slowing Down.

Ali de Groot of Amherst, Massachusetts, says it took her years to figure out that it was best to alternate days with scheduled activities and days without for her three girls, Lila, 12, Violet, 11, and Angela, 8. "When the kids were really young, I also didn't schedule many playdates. It was too much to have so many little kids in my house, or to pick one up and find her screaming, 'I don't wanna go!'"

"For the sanity of the family, one or two activities per child is enough," says Angela Wiley, Ph.D., assistant professor of family studies at the University of Illinois. "Children really benefit from downtime."

Parents benefit, too. Wiley recalls one late afternoon when she was rushing from a faculty meeting to pick up her 5-year-old at the sitter's to get her ready for her dance-recital dress rehearsal. "I was trying to get her tutu on and do her hair and put on her eye shadow, and she said, 'Mommy, you're going too fast!' And I was -- when we're rushing, our kids are rushing, too, and the stress is contagious," says Wiley, who has decided to keep ballet next year but forgo gymnastics.

Trisha Thompson is the former editor of Babytalk magazine.

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