Neither Make Haste, Nor Dawdle
There’s no tidy beginning place for this blog, so I will begin in the middle, where I am. This month I am preparing to begin homeschool kindergarten and preschool. I am playing and working with my infant every day as he learns to push up and roll over. We’re coaxing along our first vegetable garden in our new home, fighting the San Fernando Valley heat. I am working (always) on improving my housekeeping habits and routines, trying to weave them into a pleasant rhythm and involve my kids more. And, excitingly, we are getting ready to officially begin Suzuki method piano lessons for my 5-year-old.
I’ve enjoyed reading Shin’ichi Suzuki’s original writing to learn more about his philosophy and method. Well, to be perfectly frank, a lot of Ability Development from Age Zero is redundant, and some of it strikes this mother as the easy platitudes and varnished memories of an old man. Nevertheless, he had a lot of real wisdom to share, especially in Nurtured by Love. My favorite is his admonishment, “Neither make haste, nor dawdle.” Here’s what he says (emphasis mine):
"To act with resolve is to live with hope, or to keep in view a lofty mountain. There will be difficulties, but there will not be despair. Nobody can reach the summit in a single bound. And as long as one desires to make the climb, one must approach it step by step. Never make haste. This is a basic principle. One accomplishes nothing if one hurries and falls. Never dawdle either. This too is a basic principle. If one continues, regardless of what anyone else says, to move one foot before the other in silence, and without hurry or rest, one will never fail to reach the goal.
"Next, throw yourself into your endeavor with unflagging perseverance and extreme patience—this level of commitment is absolutely necessary in developing what is called kan, or intuition."
In Suzuki’s lexicon, “intuition” describes the level of mastery when one transcends the merely mechanical, and enters a realm of creativity and even spirituality. In music, for example, that means repeating a piece again and again until one can feel it, lean into it, and make it truly musical.
Imagine what it could mean for housework. Or for parenting! “There will be difficulties, but there will not be despair.” As I said, I have been working toward a rhythm in our days. Not a schedule with time slots, but a progression of one thing to the next, with intention, “perseverance, and extreme patience.” In a home with small children, that means accepting the interruptions as part of the journey, and not letting them derail me. It reminds me that if I hurry, I will miss the beautiful, playful moments with my children that make our days joyful and give them a well of happy formative memories (and I will also get burned out and cranky).
Thinking of consistency and rhythm also help to change my mindset about chores and the repetitive tasks of parenting: they are not onerous, they are just what we do, part of this life that we live, steps on our path.
It reminds me of a common mantra from Mystie Winkler of Simplified Organization, who writes about homeschool and housekeeping: “Do not grow weary of doing good.” It comes from scripture:
“So let us not grow weary of doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
I was thinking over these things all morning, reminding myself while I wiped the counter, loaded the washing machine, changed the diaper, and helped my daughters stir up yogurt and juice and smashed strawberries for homemade popsicles: “Don’t hurry. Don’t stop. Don’t hurry. Don’t stop. Keep on keeping on.”
When I took a moment to sit down, I saw an e-mail from Mennonite Central Committee. Their latest publication is all about education, specifically the important and difficult work of helping Syrian refugees to keep living and learning and growing. I clicked through to the director’s letter, and what did he open with? Galatians 6:9—Let us not grow weary of doing what is right.
So what does this all add up to? This: the lessons we learn at home, the habits we build, the character that I am working hard to form in myself and my children—these are not insignificant. This is not a little pile of laundry I’m working on; I am putting one foot in front of the other towards a lofty mountain. Day after day, inch by inch, my children will learn to read and to be kind (and hopefully to play beautiful music), my baby will learn to crawl and walk, our little sprouts will become a harvest, we will reap the joyful and meaningful life we were created for…
…And that’s all I’ve got for today. On we go.