The Case for Dilly-Dallying: Why Slow Might Just Be the Right Speed

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My daughter is a Class A dilly-dallier. If you ever go somewhere with her, plan to be at least 15 minutes late. I remember walking to the park with her when she was two years old, moving at a tortoise pace, not because of her little legs, but because she stopped to examine every leaf, pinecone, and dandelion along the way.

I thought she’d outgrow this, but at eight years old, she shows no sign of speeding up. I consistently arrive at school pick-up 10 minutes late, because I know she will be the last child out of the building. She’s the last person out of the van, the last family member at the dinner table, and the last kid to oh-so-slowly brush her teeth each night.  

I’ve tried bribery, timers, and straight-up threats. None of it works. Slowness is in her bones.

A few weeks ago we were walking home from school and my son Orlando looked back at his sister, a full block behind us, and yelled, “Come on, Miss Slow Poke! Hurry up!”

He turned to me, annoyed, and added, “All she does is dilly-dally.”

He had a point, but I decided to take the moment to be the kind of parent I see in after-school specials. You know, the kind who asks thoughtful questions that lead to life-changing learning experiences, hugs, and Kenny G music, all in under 60 minutes. We were just a half mile from home, but I figured, at Mercedes’s pace, we easily had 60 minutes ahead of us.

“You know,” I said, “We might all do better if we dilly-dallied a bit more. What are some of the benefits of dilly-dallying?”

Orlando was quiet for a moment, probably stunned into silence by this awesome display of thoughtful parenting, and then he answered, “You pay more attention to things.”

And I swear to you–at that exact moment–from a full block back, Mercedes called out, “Look! A robin!”

I looked around, too, not for the robin, but for witnesses to this gold star parenting moment. Unfortunately, I saw no one. But I figured, at our pace, someone was sure to pass us soon–probably a group of elderly citizens out for a leisurely stroll–so I kept the conversation going.

“That’s true,” I said. “We would pay more attention if we dilly-dallied. What are some other benefits?”

Now Orlando had to really think, and I’m glad he did, because this time he came up with something truly profound.

“You notice all the dog poop.”

Dang. Preach, my child.

Indulge me while I metaphorize a bit.

I think we all see the benefits of slowing down in order to pay attention to the good things in life–the robins, the roses, the smiles on each other’s faces.

But slowing down has another huge, often overlooked benefit–the ability to see the, ahem, crap we’re about to step into.

Think about it…

How often have you spent your days rushing to and fro, only stopping when your crazy-busy lifestyle led you to the brink of mental breakdown? (Super guilty over here.)  

Sometimes we’re moving so quickly that we don’t notice the warning signs until it’s too late and we step into a steaming pile of stress, toxic relationships, overcommitments, unfulfilling work, and poor health. We wonder, “How did we get here? How did we not see this coming?”  

Maybe we just didn’t dilly-dally enough.

So I’d like to make the case for dilly-dallying. For intentionally slowing down. For noticing all the robins, pinecones, leaves, and dandelions.

And yes, all the dog poop, too.

As always, to your peace of mind,

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