Nearly six years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, bouncing baby sloth. Of course, we didn’t realize she was a sloth, not at first. We saw just a normal looking human baby, all pink and squishy and drooly with folds of chub on her forearms and the middle of her thighs.
Some time around her eighteen-month milestone however, we started to realize Sweetie was in fact only part human. The other part, as it turned out, was pure sloth.
There are certainly far worse things to give birth to. Moray eels come to mind.
Or coconut crabs.
Or twin moray eels:
I’m just imagining a Moms of Multiple Morays meeting. Not pretty.
But back to MY sloth baby. I mean, just take a look at this particular cutie, so darn stationary and slow that yes, moss really does grow on her fur. I’m not bullshooting. She’s probably been in this same position since last Tuesday, maybe even since last month, so cute with that Muppet face and Silly Putty nose and those three little claw-toes that basically act as coat hangers as she dangles from a tree branch for weeks at a time, determined to win the Miss Moss 2010 competition.
Yep, there are far worse things to give birth to.
While Sweetie really does move at the speed of sloth, I, her mother, am the exact opposite. I eat fast, I walk fast, I read fast, I make decisions quickly (and as a result, sometimes stupidly). I even (as little Jake Doe, Buddy’s buddy once pointed out) drive fast.
“Nope, Jake! I’m not driving fast. Everything just seems faster in a minivan. Right kids?”
Buddy and Sweetie nodded.
“See? I’m just going the speed limit! Not a mile above! No need to mention this to your mother!”
I am fast. Sometimes to a fault. Sweetie, in contrast, has two speeds: slow and Fairy. In Fairy speed, she’s actually light and fluttery and likes to do lots of twirls and (oddly enough) sing like Bob Dylan. Fairy speed is fine. It is Slow speed that’s problematic.
In Slow speed, Sweetie will stand in the bathroom, combing her wet hair for ten hours. She will sing a full Wagner opera while sitting on the potty. She will take roughly an hour and a half to answer a question. A simple question. Such as, “Would you like toast or Life cereal for breakfast?” If I ask her that simple question at 7:30, at 9:00 she’ll say, “Toast please. With butter.”
Even dear husbandio, who moves at a speed far closer to Sloth than Sarah, will look at me, wide-eyed, silent-screaming “OH MY GOSH!” when Sweetie has taken 23 minutes to find her socks. And don’t even get me started about playing Uno! with that girl. In between each card she plays, she feels compelled to do at least three Vinyasa sun salutations. I wish I were kidding.
About 8% of the time, I can tolerate it, even indulge it. But the other 92% of the time, I find it very difficult to be patient. When, for a hypothetical example, Sweetie (at age 1.5) is making me and Buddy late for the first day of Church Camp where I am the lead teacher and really cannot be late, and she’s standing at the top of the stairs, watching a spider or watching air or whatever she’s doing, I might hypothetically yell (from the bottom of the stairs) something like, “PLEASE! GET IN THE EFFING CAR!”
After which, she eventually does get in the effing car, and off we go to church, (driving at what feels like just a little over the speed limit, but is, I am sure, actually just that deceptive fast minivan feeling) where I will be teaching children about kindness and patience and Jesus’ love and all the things I had none of when I was hypothetically screaming at my sloth baby.
Of course, this is just one reason Sweetie is good for me. As someone who has a hard time living in the moment, I can certainly learn from Sweetie, someone who likes to pause and pack a hundred moments of living into each single moment. Combing her hair. Staring at air. Doing downward dog in between Uno! turns.
Yes, I can learn from her. But do I want to? Not really. Because even some things that are Good for Me are not appealing. Like mammograms. And kale.
Sure, my brain knows that if I were a little more slothy, I might suck a bit more of the marrow out of life. I might notice more bugs and stars and pretty flowers. But I might also be late. WHICH I CANNOT STAND. I can’t stand being late or slow or last or mossy or any of those things that happen to sloths on a regular basis.
It makes me hearken back to an ex-boyfriend, one who was exceptionally slow. Not stupid-slow, but speed-slow. He ate slow. He processed feelings and emotions slowly. He was slow to learn Sarah-ish. But he could provide the brakes if I needed them. Because that’s just one problem with being me: sometimes, there’s no one manning the brakes.
But can a person change the pace that’s been programmed, like a metronome, into her DNA? I don’t think so. I can’t change permanently, not really. Nor do I want to change. Nor can Sweetie change. Nor should she change.
I believe the reason I have Sweetie is not so I can learn to stop and smell more roses, but so I will learn to slow down enough to allow her to do some rose-smelling. And then, as long as I slow to 15 m.p.h., maybe I’ll catch a whiff of the roses too. Which would be cool. I’m certainly not opposed to rose-smelling.
If I’m really honest, I think I must secretly crave and appreciate the sloth pace of Sweetie and husbandio and ex-boyfriendio.
I must appreciate a passenger who can slow me down, just in case I’m flying down that roller coaster hill, heading east on 55th, the one right before Met Market, going perhaps a little too fast while Buddy and Sweetie grip the armrests of their booster seats, their hands white-knuckled, their faces smiling a smile that’s half-way between fear and delight.