wait a minute….

Sometimes I think I am the only person in my family who knows what waiting is. How hard it can be. How much I have to bite my tongue, try not to roll my eyes, keep myself from heaving that heavy sigh that says, “Please. hurry. up.

How foolish I am when I think such a thing. Of course I am not the only one required to wait. Children wait all the time. And my children happen to have the chattiest mother on the planet, so they wait even more than most.

But in the last few years, this practice of waiting for people I love has become beautiful to me, when I take the time to do it…..well.

When my four year old has something to say, I squat down and look him in the eyes and wait while his growing brain searches for his words. I see his earnestness, his eagerness, his excitement, his elation. All those things his eyes say better than his words anyway. All because I’m waiting.

And my eldest, the pre-teen who might just open up after I turn the lights out if I linger a moment or two longer, rather than hurrying off in anticipation of that time of my day when I am finally off duty.

And my sweet, sweet middle son who is coming into his own this year. He is the one who brings playfulness along with him where ever he goes. And if I hurry him along, refusing to wait and allow space for him to be who he is I will miss the play in my life entirely. I will miss him entirely.

And let’s just say that if I never waited for my husband to finish that one last thing (he is the KING of one last things) when I have all three boys and me in the van and ready to go, he would never come along with us anywhere. To anything. And without him I would miss the humor and delight in my marriage.

So I keep practicing waiting. And I think I am actually getting better at it. I believe it is a sacred art of sorts, involving the same letting go and seeing where the process takes me as creating does.

Waiting is the relinquishing of what I want, the destination I am headed toward, the timeline I want my life to move on and creating space for something I would not have otherwise anticipated, seeing where the wait takes me, what it reveals to me about myself and the people and world around me.

Waiting is a such a small thing, but it tells someone they are important enough for me to set aside the rest of the world that is vying for my attention and do nothing out of reverence for them.

And that is no small thing at all. 

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for the love of waiting……

“Well….this is different,” I thought. I’ve done this sort of thing before. But as usual with this third child, the experience seems familiar and foreign all at once. So it goes with an evolving person.

We were late to preschool this morning, but I decide not to get stressed out about it, like I sometimes do. What matters more than being on time is being together. This is Mom’s Morning, after all.

And at our preschool, Mom’s Morning is a special time for moms to be with their kids at preschool. Snapping at my son to hurry him up so I don’t look bad in front of all the other moms is no way to get that started. Instead, I immerse myself in the process of getting there rather than the result of being punctual.

The teachers have an art project all laid out for us. Picture frames. But of course Zachary has to stop in at the bathroom to wash hands before we get started.

Instead of coming with him to move things along, I stay outside and wait. I remind myself his independence is more important than my desire for control.

We eventually find a spot and Zachary gets going on the frame. Gluing treasures on pre-assembled, brightly painted popsicle sticks.

He doesn’t seem to need my input. He gets lost in his project. I watch as he maneuvers a dollop of glue onto a stick and carefully moves it over to his frame.

His hand hovers over the wooden containers on the table, lightly touching each of his options. Feathers. Buttons. Shells. Smooth glass rocks. He is considering. This is his creative process.

He repeats the steps with the occasional rogue string of glue landing on his hands somewhere. He tries to rub it off, but remains unsatisfied. He excuses himself to wash his hands. He does not like sticky fingers.

He comes back to the table and focuses back on his work. He is careful, thoughtful. I fall in love watching him.

The second time he gets up to wash his hands (particularly sticky glue), I notice from my seat that most of the other children are done with their project and have moved on to other activities.

I feel a shove from the old me to hurry Zachary along. God forbid we don’t keep the same pace as the others. Then someone would have to wait for us. Although really, would that be so bad? What treasure might they find? What might you?

my moment on the couch

Why is this so hard? I leave the boys in the garage, buckled in their seats and ready to go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. They are only missing the keys to the van and me.

I, however, need a moment. A moment to breathe. A moment to let myself feel as frustrated as I am. A moment to give myself some compassion and try to pull something out of myself I don’t think is there.

Because parenting is hard sometimes. Really, truly, very hard.

I had been listening to a bounty of bickering ALL WEEK LONG. I had done what I could to set us up for success at the beginning of Spring Break. I noticed the boys were having a difficult time remembering how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another, and how to treat one another with a general sense of respect.

You know, the kind of respect I, as their mother, would hope they would treat any other human being with. Apparently brothers are exempt “human being” status. So I reminded them what respect looks like and that every person is entitled to being treated with said respect, even brothers. And I told them this was our project for the week.

Needless to say, things did not go as I might have hoped. By now we were all completely saturated in our collective humanity. And in my desperation and exhaustion with it all, I was looking for my children to be different and change their behavior to be the way out. But I know that I know that I know that I know….that the only way out is for me to lead them.

But I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can change my attitude. Because I am so utterly tired of their bickering and arguing and childishness. However, they are children. And I am the adult.

And these are the moments when parenting is entirely impossible. When I have given all of the patience and grace that I think I have inside of me. But the job requires more.

So I let myself have that moment, inside my house, on my couch. And I practiced giving myself compassion, mercy, and tenderness. The kind I imagine God has for all of us, even parents who have reached the end of themselves like me. Honestly I didn’t think it would help much but it was all that I had.

I told myself this job is just as holistically difficult and insurmountable as it seems. “Of course you are spent and frustrated and done with bad attitudes,” I said with gentleness. And maybe a touch of attitude all my own. And I soaked in that compassion and understanding for a moment.

And then I reminded myself that they are not going to change their attitudes until I change mine. And it will be hard all day long to lead them out of here. And it will likely be hard the next day, too.

“But you are their leader,” I said. “So lead them.”

stopping for snuggles

What is she doing?

The scene flashes before my eyes quicker than my brain can process what I see. There is a clearing where I get on the freeway and another ten freeways converge and veer off. I see a woman standing there, safely centered in the middle of a grassy area with her car pulled off the road. The expanse is surrounded by fast-paced, southern Californian roads and freeways. She stands out like a sore thumb.

She is holding her baby.

Her body gently sways back and forth as the look of patience and compassion adorns her. So many thoughts rush through me as I try to put the pieces together.

I have vivid memories of driving with my baby screaming behind me, helpless and frazzled as I navigated to our destinations. The tension would mount in my shoulders, tying my muscles into knotted rocks.

I was always so convinced of the nuisance I was to other drivers, sure they could hear what was happening in my car. They knew what a terrible mother I was a) for not being able to keep my child from crying in the car and b) for getting in everyone’s way as I drove so flustered and frantically.

But this woman let that all go. She stopped. And for this moment, when I saw her, she was living out her priority that her child was more important than her destination or what other people thought of her.

And she has come to my mind so many times in the last week. I have been raw and surging with hormones. I’ve been processing some family stuff. I’ve been wrestling with a desire to write more that clearly doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. And I have been reading The Hunger Games – with all it’s intensity (dying I love it so much, by the way!) – which has delightfully pulled all of my emotions right to the surface of me.

As a result, I’ve been a little short tempered with my children. This is my Achilles’ heal, my continual battle with myself. Not getting loud and shaming when my patience runs thin. And while it is true that my children are neither perfect nor angelic, my temper is my problem, not theirs.

And in the middle of one of my “You better get your shoes on or you will be late for your preschool fieldtrip!” episodes, my four-year-old looked up at me with his crocodile-tears and big hazel-brown eyes and adorable little face and cried out, “I want some snuggles!”

He does this from time to time when I loose my cool.

And it is as precious as it sounds.

And I immediately think of that mom safely off to the side of the freeway, swaying back and forth with her baby cradled against her body. And I stop, and I snuggle my four year old. Know what? Turns out snuggles is just what I need right now, too.