Recently, O and I were shopping at Target. This is something I rarely do, at least with him, as I always end up spending extra money on just one more train. I still haven’t figured out a way to prep him for a Target shopping trip that doesn’t include buying him something. This expectation started when he was younger, when we could find an assortment of Thomas movies on the $5 rack. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure we now own every single Thomas movie ever made, so the $5 rack doesn’t work anymore. That is why, as you can understand, I usually go without him.
Anyway, shopping with him that day was unavoidable. So there we were, finishing our check out, when O looked at me and, pointing at the man standing behind us, said, “Mom, it’s the man’s turn now.” I said, “You’re right. Now that we’re finished, it’s his turn.” Then, he said, “Mom, that man was waiting so patiently.” I concurred, after all, the man was waiting patiently.
It struck me at that moment what I had been trying really hard to communicate with O lately, the importance of not just waiting, but waiting patiently. This is not something that is easy for many preschoolers, but especially for O, it is a huge challenge. Lately, he has been extremely resistant to waiting, even for the smallest amount of time. I’m not talking about having to wait days, just delaying long enough for me to walk from one end of the kitchen to the other to get the milk from the refrigerator, sometimes just a few seconds. His response to waiting is often yelling, “But, waiting is boring!” How do you respond to that? I’ve tried saying, “I know it’s hard to wait, but I need to …” This just makes him more upset, yelling, “Waiting is not hard, it’s boring!” I’m not sure where and when he came up with this phrase. Maybe he means he is not interested in waiting, because it’s irritating or tiresome (to use some synonyms I found for the word “boring”). Don’t really know, but he is adamant about using the word, so I’ll go with it.
At times, waiting is “boring” for him because he has an expectation of what was going to happen and how long it will take. Most of time, he expects things to happen instantly, and when they don’t, which is not according to his plan, he has difficulty coping. Because of this, I have been working with him on waiting, giving him opportunities, in a safe and comfortable environment, to experience waiting. This is exhausting, as he is not the child who will wait quietly. He continually repeats his request, at an increasing volume, until the waiting is over. Although we often use a timer to give O a more concrete way of understanding how much time he has to wait, that doesn’t always work, especially in those situations when we can’t put an exact value on the wait.
Waiting is not easy, I suspect, for any of us. I know I have difficulty waiting for answers to questions or resolutions to problems, especially when I have an idea of what those answers and solutions should be. But, waiting is a part of life. We wait in line, wait on answers to prayers, wait for our children to become independent, wait to be seated in a restaurant, etc. We must all learn to wait, patiently. If we don’t, we end up like O, so overwhelmed by the waiting that we often lose sight of the goal, the original object or activity we wanted in the first place.
It is obvious to me, from the Target example, that O has a pretty good idea of what it looks like to wait patiently. However, he is not yet at the point where he is ready or able to do this, since he prefers to have his demands met instantly. I’m not sure when or how he will learn this. I know it will take time. I’m still searching for new ways, new strategies that might make waiting more enjoyable, less “boring” for him. I’m still waiting…
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)