I tend to be a busy person. Always have liked to be on the move, and when I move, I move quickly. Well, that was B.K. (before kids). These past three years, I have struggled to adjust to a slower pace. Such is life with small, cute, but very slow children. While some may say your pace quickens, I feel the opposite. The freedom to just move, to get up and go no longer exists. What took five minutes before (coat, purse, keys, go), now takes half an hour. Coat, purse, keys, diaper bag with diapers, change of clothing, drinks, snacks, games, toys, books, children . . . diaper changes once more before leaving, then returning for the coffee you forgot. You get the idea.
And then come the toddler years. The “I do it myself, mommy!” phrases repeated over and over and over again, while I wait, biting my lip, mustering up all the patience I can fathom.
“Can mommy help?” I offer.
“No, mommy! Me do!” she screams at my outstretched arms.
“Okay then, I’ll wait,” I huff, foot tapping, impatience brewing.
When I’m used to doing things at my pace, it’s excruciating to wait and move at the pace of a three-year-old. This has been a challenge for me. It seems like every activity has me waiting, impatiently tapping my foot wondering how long this particular activity will take. Toilet training? Not for the impatient parent. Getting dressed? How much time did I plan for, because this is going to take a while. And, once she does get her clothes on, albeit backwards, shoes on the wrong feet, I go with it because I can’t sit and wait for her to do it again.
Why is waiting so difficult?
Turns out the reason is simple. When I’m impatient, I’m not paying attention. My mind is off planning what I need to do next, how many chores, errands, appointments I have that need attending, the endless to-do list clucking in my head. My mind is elsewhere.
This little trick has made all the difference for my sanity. When I start to feel impatient, I make a decision to stop and pay attention. I force my mind to be present by actively observing every detail of what is happening. I choose to notice because whether my mind is present or not, my body still has to stand there waiting, so I might as well enjoy it.
I notice how independent she’s becoming. I notice how much she enjoys doing it herself. I notice the smile on her face when she gets her clothes on all by herself. Her selection of mismatched yet coordinated outfits make me smile. I see her little fingers working with the velcro of her shoes which are on the wrong feet, but she doesn’t care, so why should I? I observe the swell of pride when she completes her task, all without mommy’s help.
It feels like it takes my toddler forever to go to the bathroom. I see how excited she gets. I notice her watching me to see how I feel about it. I sense my cue to smile in encouragement, replacing the prior furrowed brow of impatience. I notice she hums to herself, and I see she knows the whole process without reminders. I listen her talk to me (some gibberish, some intelligible), and I engage in conversation with her. I sense her swell of pride when she succeeds. I notice what I would have missed if I’d been checking my phone or tapping my foot like before, and I smile again.
The line for the grocery checkout is five carts deep. I notice my girls talking to each other, my one-year-old laughing at the jabbering talk of my three-year-old. I catch their smiles and giggles and let them pour into my soul. I see their bond developing. I spy a mom with four young children and wonder how she manages when I feel overwhelmed with two. I notice all the food in our cart that will feed our family for two weeks. I notice the checkout girl smiling and talking to another customer. I see all that I might have missed if I’d only been anxious to get to the next thing on my list.
A lot of life happens while we’re waiting. That is when magic happens. It’s during the in-between times. What used to feel like wasted time is where life’s best magic is waiting to be experienced. We just need to stop and notice it.
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