Traveling at the Speed of Children: Slow Down

slowing downI confess that I never really used to like San Francisco.

I apologize to my dear friends and everyone else I know who lives here. While I had visited the city many times, and there were moments when I sensed or had glimmers of its appeal, I never quite understood why it is so beloved.

Until now.

I am writing from San Francisco. My children are between the end of school and the start of summer camp, so we decided to take advantage of my husband’s weeklong business trip here. While he’s attending meetings and going to business dinners, we are exploring all that San Francisco has to offer with Muni passes in our pockets and HopStop, TripAdvisor, and Yelp apps on my phone.

Halfway through our trip, I have fallen in love with San Francisco. Seeing the city through my children’s eyes, I finally get it.

“Why is it so hilly?”

“How come some buses connect to those wires above while those little trains called cable cars?”

“Why are there so many Asians here?”

On this trip, unlike previous ones, I am fully experiencing what San Francisco has to offer. Once again my children are asking me to stop, look, question, ponder, … and then to Google. They ask me to look up things I don’t normally think about (like plate tectonics and the difference between street cars and cable cars). I have to consider the nuances of complex ideas (like what it means to be an Asian American) from a different perspective than my own (my daughter’s).

I know I am not alone. Parents must change their pace all the time. It’s frustrating. I am a control freak and hate that as a parent I’ve lost so much control over my own time and energy. My children force me to speed up, slow down, squeeze in more, cut out some, keep track, and lose track. And they seem to have a knack for doing that when it is least convenient. It stresses me out.

But now and then, when I travel at their pace and let them take the reins, or when I put down my phone, close my laptop, and let them help me filter out distractions in the world, I am often surprised. I somehow better feel and absorb what life has to offer. It requires letting go, and that’s not easy for me to do. And the magic doesn’t always happen. But when it does, it’s worth it.

This summer, wherever you will be, I wish you such moments of letting go. And if the magic happens, let me know. I always love hearing from you.