This is Slow Work

“You have to let go of her sometime.” 

She’s given me parenting advice before but, at this comment, I pause. 

I’m not surprised, though. I’ve just shared that our oldest will not be starting grade one at our local public school in September and I’m very aware homeschooling is not a popular choice. Dodging questions about my children's future social skills from near strangers and tolerating skeptical silence is my specialty. I have heard it all.

It will hold them back. It will make them weird. They’ll have gaps in their learning. Kids need the structure of a classroom. You have to let go of them sometime.

What is the hurry? The tiny human in question hasn’t yet celebrated a sixth birthday. What if she isn’t ready to spend each day in a classroom full of peers? What if I’m not either? What if I don’t want to rush?

But it’s always a rush, isn’t it?

When will you wean her? Is she sleeping through the night? Can she sit up yet? Why haven’t you started solids? Are you going to put her in preschool? Is she potty trained?

We value progress and growth and independence, tracking milestones and preferably checking them off ahead of schedule. We value speed and efficiency, a pizza pop in the microwave version of life. We value buildings filled with textbooks and education degrees (I know this; I have one.), churning out individuals who have checked off all the boxes on the credit requirements list.

But slow? Savouring childhood? Accepting gaps and weaknesses while nurturing strengths and passions? Waiting for achievements and milestones and independence to unfold on their own? Not so fashionable. A skinny jeans and side part version of parenting.

In our culture, choosing slow feels bold. In the forest, it’s survival.


A mighty oak spends the first half of summer nurturing thousands of acorns, packing each with nourishment for what she hopes will be her offspring. In the second half, she scatters them across the forest floor. She expects hundreds to become dinner to hungry squirrels and hundreds more to decay without sprouting, feeding the forest instead of the squirrels or the seedlings.

She knows a handful will overwinter under the frozen ground and sprout in the spring.

This handful won’t all survive either. Fragile roots are vulnerable to human feet, late frosts, and fungi.

But a few will manage to send those delicate roots branching out from their acorn, fueled by the seed its mother dropped months before, only to anchor themselves in the soil, waiting for their own tiny leaves to spread out, catch the sun and sustain themselves.

This is a big investment: hundreds of acorns for a handful of hope.

This is slow work. 

I used to think this is where its mother’s work ended. I used to think, from here, it was a race to the canopy. Then I added Peter Wohlleben’s “The Secret Life of Trees”  to my pandemic reading list.

Eventually these seedlings will take their mother’s place but, for now, they take it slow. 
Instead of a race to independence, they’re shaded by their mother—stunted growth by way of light deprivation.

Under the soil, their roots grow, intertwining with their mother’s, connected to the forest by fungi, receiving sugar in this time of waiting—mother trees tending to their babies. Mother trees not letting go.

The seedlings who grow quickly will have brittle trunks. They will break easily in storms. They’ll be easily injured. They’ll succumb to fungi and disease because they can’t heal themselves before they rot.

The ones who take it slow will be resilient, ready and waiting when it’s their time to head for the canopy.


There’s a lot of pressure to race our kids through childhood and dozens of ways to relieve it, to savour childhood, to respect a little human’s unique pace, to build that resilience and prevent the human version of brittle trunks.

It may include homeschooling and it may not. It may include summer afternoons making mud puddles in the backyard and it may not. It may include meeting milestones and it may not. 

In the meantime, what if slow is not a liability but a gift?

This post is part of a blog hope with Exhale--an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Bold."