Toddlers are a great lesson in what it looks like when you don’t know how to wait.
Every minute is an eternity. The seconds that might tick by in the time between her requesting milk and my ability to put the cup in her hand stretch out into unacceptable infinity. I think to toddlers we adults must move slowly, like a giant tortoise lumbering by while they move at super-speed.
By the time I can even get the lid off of the milk, her initial polite request (delivered via the “more” sign, which in her mind means anything from “milk” to “food” to “no, not THAT food, this other food”) will have begun to morph into the full-throated, ear-piercing whine that is every toddler’s innate specialty.
She takes the milk from my outstretched hand and drinks noisily, immediately content, forgetting she was ever impatient at all. Meanwhile, my blood pressure is already up and the echo of her whine is still bouncing off the inside of my skull. Just about the time that echo dies down, she thinks of something else she wants and the process begins again.
I find myself occasionally wishing I could wait the way she does -- that is to say, there are days I’d like to whine, too, to stomp my feet and fling myself backwards or throw myself face-first off the couch in my frustration and know implicitly that I won’t hit the floor too hard when wrapped up in emotions because someone else will have already caught me before my head touches the hardwood floor.
Toddlers do not wait, and they swing wildly between a kind of unthinking courage and helpless anxiety.
My baby girl still needs me to rescue her, but she would love to be able to save herself. She is fearless in all those ways I wish she wouldn’t be, and not at all in the ways that fearless would actually help.
I know the feeling.
Her stubbornness doesn't only come from me, but I definitely provided some of it. My father was hard-headed as a mule when he was certain of something, and that’s what I got from him. Well, that and my flat-food tread on the stairs, loud as a herd of elephants, much of the shape of my face, and the way I say the word ‘wash’ with an ‘r’ in it… but the biggest gift my father gave me was my stubbornness.
Although whether it counts as a 'gift' probably depends on who you're asking about it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly manage to inherit his patience or ability to face the world before dawn with anything but a scowl and a trip to Starbucks, but hey, nobody's perfect.
Parenting is really just variations on "hurry up and wait", I think, and sometimes I get tired of the waiting part. There are mornings when I have had just about enough of brewing coffee at 4:30 am, when it becomes clear she’s not going back to sleep and therefore neither am I.
Sometimes, I want to stomp my feet and demand my evenings back. I’d love to declare that I will once again sit in silence and read while eating dinner, rather than sing-song-speaking what everything is while the tiny dictator I love more than I love my own heartbeat tries to decide if she will deign to try it.
I’d like to proclaim to the world that I will cook spicy soup that nearly lights our throats on fire, just the way we like it, no more mild chili, no more mild curries. I wish sometimes that she would just learn to sleep in already. I am jealous of people with older children. I’d love to tell the world that this time, I’ll wake up at 9:30 on Saturday morning instead of being thankful to only get up one hour before dawn instead of two. I will be one of those people who no longer wants to punch everyone in the face when they tell me smugly how their child slept through the night by now.
The waiting is hard, but the worst part about it is that while I stubbornly wait for her to just grow up a little, I hold just as tenaciously onto a desperate wish that she will always be so small.
My mother visits, and when she goes to use the bathroom in a store my daughter points at the closed door and says “Gaaaa - mah,” loud and clear, to let me know she knows very well where her grandmother is. She calls our dog “Puh-beh”, in her tiny insistent voice, good-naturedly giggling while his wagging tail repeatedly smacks her across the face. She is learning, finally, to walk all by herself.
She gives me a kiss goodbye in the mornings, when she feels like it.
I can’t wait for nights Jason and I get out of the house all by ourselves - and yet I miss her terribly the whole time we are away.
While many other mothers write from a position of having been through each stage before, every part of her development is so new to me. It’s exhausting and sometimes all I want is for this part, the part where she’s learning tantrums and whining and wanting all the time, to be over.
Then she holds up her arms and settled into my lap and I’d be happiest if she never grew up at all. I hold her as long as she wants, happy to wait for her to decide it's time to wriggle out of my arms and wander off to her newest adventure.
Today's post is my thirteenth while participating in the #wholemama link up. This week's theme was "wait". You can find the linkup here over on Erika Shirk's blog Overflow. My other posts as part of the linkup have been She is Home, I Used to Think I Couldn't Dance, Calm, A Hard Leap Off a High Cliff, Motherhood on Purpose, On Reading and Peace, I Lay You Down to Sleep, My Love, When It Rains... Celebrate,Parenting is Silly, Anything But Ordinary, Space, Prayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom.