“Mom, I watched the big hand on the clock move from the 1 to the 9,” my three-year-old announced. He enjoyed watching at the clock; he noticed its movements when I thought it was standing still. Should I be concerned with this child who was content with stillness, who loved his family but enjoyed being alone, who thrived playing with friends but spent hours building with educational blocks by himself?
I probably used the word hurry five times a day during his preschool years. What was his problem? Was he lazy? Unfocused? Self-absorbed? Irresponsible? Selfish?
Eventually it began to occur to me that there is value in his style. If I want something done right, or if I needed to choose a surgeon for myself, this would be the ideal style. So I changed my mode of parenting him by allowing him plenty of time to plan his day and manage his time, and by limiting my use of the word hurry to once a week: “If you can hurry one time this week, make it now because we can’t be late to this.”
Add to this style the fact that he tested 100% introvert on the Meyers-Briggs (is that even possible?!). So now, rather than chiding him for not getting together with friends, using fewer than 24 words at dinnertime, and avoiding youth group social activities (which tend to be loud and extrovert-driven), I have started thanking him for lingering at the table with guests and participating in conversations, knowing that this sucks the emotional energy out of him, and he needs to go recharge in solitude.
Through the years I have seen the benefits of his style: a highly ranked chess player with the fortitude to concentrate on a game for four hours (times 7 in a weekend!), a mathematician/physicist who can concentrate on a problem for an hour to get to its solution, a soccer ref who is steady in the stress of difficult calls and difficult fans, and overall, a person not shifted by emotional pleas.
This slow and steady style is not without its challenges, of course. Almost every academic test is time-driven, which becomes his greatest downfall, and the tests that aren’t timed accentuate his speed even more. I once waited in the hall at an education institution while he took an un-timed exam once; after three hours I began wondering if he found another exit or had fallen asleep.
Another challenge to his pace of life is other’s perceptions. Some people interpret his pensiveness, resulting in a slower response, as inattentiveness or conceit. Others perceive him as less than intelligent as he ponders the situation without verbalizing a response. However, my job as his parent is to help him recognize the qualities that God has given him while showing him how to make that work with our productivity-driven culture in this time-sensitive lifestyle.