The Tortoise and the Chicken
Richie, for instance came home from pre-k and said, "I learned something today: Walking is better than running."
"Really, where'd you learn that?" I asked.
"We read a book called The Turtle and the Chicken. And the turtle was very slow and the chicken was very fast..."
"Wait a second--do you mean The Tortoise and the Hare?" I asked. "Was the chicken a rabbit?"
"No, it was a chicken," he said. "And the chicken was stopping, stopping and the turtle won."
"Was the moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race?"
Richie looked at me like I'd pulled a rabbit out of a hat. "How did you know that?"
"Because slow and steady does win the race," I said.
Actually, fast and steady wins the race, but that message would be disheartening to Richie, who dislikes even walking fast.
He told a friend the other day, "I don't like soccer. Well, I like soccer, just not the running part."
That story always made me wonder. Sure the tortoise beat the rabbit, who obviously had attention deficit disorder. But put him up against a cheetah. Would slow and steady still win the race?
But you know what? The story works. If you're in an actually race, speed is of the essence. But in life, you can't rush things. You can only go as fast as the tortoise. Unlike the hare, or--nowadays--the chicken, the tortoise travels slowly; nothing breaks his stride. Not even the constant prospect of losing. And so, he wins.
If you try to rush something, like the, um, chicken, you get frustrated and give up.
Maybe Richie has the right idea. Walking is better than running. And running in dramatic slow motion while looking at the fans at your soccer game and kicking the ball in the wrong direction beats both, I think.
Slow and steady wins any race worth undertaking, from growing up to building a business to parenting. Everyday, I remind the boys to say please. Seven years later, this habit is taking hold for Johnny.
Second, I can't really say I dabble in freelance writing and editing anymore. Business in good. So good, in fact, that it took me five hours to carve a chicken last week. As soon as my hands were nice and greasy, I'd get a phone call.
With Richie in school two days, my mornings go like this...Play choo choo...Take a phone call...Play cars...Take a phone call...and so on.
It all goes smoothly, except days like yesterday, when I had to hide in our attic to interview somebody because J.J. was changing the channel on the T.V., which infuriated Richie.
An editor had called me at the park, where the boys and I were hanging out with friends. Apparently when he says, "Try to turn this story in by Friday," "try" is not the operative word. Because Lord knows I tried.
When it comes to deadlines, slow and steady does not win the race. So I had to wrap it up. Hence, minutes before my new deadline, the attic phone call.
Also, Johnny needed patches sewn on his Cub Scout uniform. Sewing is not just something I can do overnight. First, I have to figure out where you buy needles and thread. Then, learn how to sew.
"Just have your grandma teach you," Justin said.
"Or: have her teach you," I said.
What I meant to say was, "Just because somebody teaches you something, doesn't mean you can do it right away. Learning a new skill takes time."
Case in point: I know that to climb a mountain, you put one foot in front of the other. But that doesn't mean I can climb Mount Everest.
Sewing is my Everest.
My mom came to the rescue and said she would sew the patches on.
In the meantime, Johnny had his first in-uniform meeting. He looked so handsome. Earlier, I felt bad that I didn't get the patches sewn on. Apparently, Johnny's friend wore his uniform to school with everything sewn on.
"His mom knows how to sew; his grandma knows how to sew; everybody in his family knows how to sew..." Johnny said. (This being the Versace family.)
But now, that didn't matter to him. He looked so proud to wear his Cub Scout uniform and have the motto memorized: Do your best.
After the meeting, he was rushing around. Unlike Richie, Johnny is always in a hurry, always has so much to do. Last night, he had to 1. Rearrange his club. 2. Draw a diagram of his uniform so that his grandma would know where to sew on the patches. 3. Rearrange the shelf above his bed to include his Cub Scout handbook. 4. Count his Pokemon cards. 5. Pass out light sabers to his brothers in case Siths attacked overnight.
At some point, every mom sees her child in a new light and thinks: He's going places. When I saw Johnny in his Cub Scout uniform, it was that moment for me. I just hope that where ever he's going, he remembers to go slowly. There is really no other way.