According to my daughter’s encyclopedia, the sloth, which moves at the rate of just 15–30 cm every minute, has earned the title of being the slowest of all mammals.
I’m afraid I’d have to disagree with that. There is in fact another mammal with an average speed that covers only half of that distance in at least twice the time – and I actually have one living under my very own roof. What on earth can this sluggish creature be I hear you cry? A 7 year old child of course.
Why children slow down so much by the time they reach this age remains a mystery to many. It’s almost as if they start to slowly wind down as they creep closer to puberty, a biological necessity perhaps, to prepare them for the many years of hibernation that lay ahead under a festering duvet.
By the time they are 7, their ears have all but sealed over and their sense of speed has as good as vanished. Their every action is carried out in slow motion and even the simplest of tasks can be simply too painful to behold. They move at a speed that makes a snail look positively hoon-like and they make watching paint dry seem like an extreme sport.
Of course it wasn’t always this way. As toddlers they took both hands, a set of reins and a series of complicated adult proof baby gates to keep them from running at breakneck speed into, over and under everything in sight. You spent your every waking minute telling them to slow down, get down and lie down. Then the years passed and they stretched and grew. All of a sudden the only part of them that ever really picks up any momentum is their jaw, as they fight to always try and get the last word in.
Take my daughter for example. When told to go to bed it can take her a good 10 minutes to cross a totally unobstructed room, with that time being broken down roughly as follows:
At least a minute to hear and register what I have said. Another to find her feet under the cushions. A couple more spent stroking the dog on her way off the chair. A pit stop at the window to study and comment on a ball that she has suddenly spotted in the garden. A few more spent tidying up her pencil pot on the table. Another minute to clean up the contents of her pencil sharpener, which were ‘accidentally’ spilled on the floor, and then the last few minutes spent popping her head back around the corner of the door like a meerkat cat, while she desperately thinks of something to say that might delay the inevitable for a little longer.
In fact any activities involving my daughter (who has less urgency about her than a squirrel in winter) seem to take at least 5 times longer than they should. Brushing her teeth for example. 35 minutes it took one day. Why so long to flick a toothbrush over her gum’s, spread toothpaste around the entire basin and drip water all the way back across the floor? Well that would be because she had decided to clean and polish the soap dish and bath with her towel.
Yet to give credit where credit is due, quite bizarrely on other days she takes it upon herself to get up and dressed, feed herself breakfast and bring in the washing off the line (she said she saw a dark cloud moving our way), and all before my alarm clock has even drawn it’s first breath.
If only she could harness the energy she reserves for the playground and use it for everyday chores, maybe then we wouldn’t have to race down the road every morning with toast crumbs flying, or reach the end of another day with a monumental battle of wills and the sound of small feet stomping away from the dinner table in silent protest.
Undoubtedly the worst part about having your child turn into a sloth is that it automatically turns you, the parent into a parrot. You find yourself repeating everything you say at least half a dozen times, nagging becomes an art form and by the time you get to the end of the day even you are sick of hearing yourself saying ‘Come on’, ‘Hurry up‘ and ‘How long can it take to put on a pair of shoes?‘
Every night when I look at her sleeping in her bed, peaceful, angelic and for the first time that day, quiet, it makes me stop and think. I tell myself that the next day I will try to remain patient and relaxed, I will refrain from repeating myself and stop myself from expecting the impossible to happen.
Then the morning comes and 10 minutes after getting her out of bed I find her still sat on her bedroom floor in her pj’s, carefully rearranging her Polly Pocket collection while her cereal sits untouched in the other room, fast losing all of its snap, crackle and pop. As the school siren goes my calm dissolves, my eyebrows raise and my inner parrot is once again firmly back in control.