Julie Lyles Carr: The Waiting Game

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Waiting Game

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Have you ever noticed?

Some of the best parenting techniques show up when you're least expecting it.

Case in point....

The twins have rarely had to wait on much in their lives. They were born into a household with lots and lots of arms to hold them, older sisters who have been like mamas to them, older brothers who have wagged them around like favorite uncles. Because they've had so many people in the house, they've not really known what it is to wait for a bottle or a sippy cup, wait to have a story read to them, wait for a snack.

Heck, they don't even know how to wait for Dora the Explorer to come on television. Because they were born into an age of DVRs and on-demand technology.

As a result, they don't wait well.

At all.

Back in the days when my oldest kids were young, Mike was often gone building a business and there was just me. My older kids knew how to take turns, knew how to be patient while I tended to one of their siblings. They had to. They might have outnumbered me, but I was the only person who could reach the top shelf of the pantry where the Goldfish crackers were kept.

Not so for the younger set. They are well aware that there are any number of people who can reach all manner of snack items and can do so with immediacy.

And then there's this...my tolerance level for whining and wailing has dropped as my age has increased. I'm willing to placate like an indulgent grandma just to keep the noise level in the house somewhere below 'piercing shriek'. And if that means we older members of the household have become the personal assistants to the preschool population, then so be it.

Except....

The preschoolers aren't having to use their patience muscle. They don't know this crazy word 'wait'.

Admittedly, I need to work on it with them. Except I just tremble at the fit throwing that I know will ensue.

Here's where the unintended parenting technique came into play yesterday.

I was running some errands yesterday and returning some phone calls. While I was out, cell phone glued to my ear, I picked up Valentine's candy to give to the kids next week when we hit the heart holiday. I made my way home, ready to unload groceries and supplies and the Valentine's candy, fully intending to secret the said candy away from kid eyes until next week.

But...

I was in the midst of an important portion of a phone conversation as I came in the door to the house. I focused on the conversation at hand, absently pulling Target bags in the door with me, draping them across the dining room table and entryway. I was intently listening, schlepping shopping bags, giving the majority of my attention to the person on the other end of the line.

And behind my distracted back, Target bags were being pillaged. And surprises were being discovered. Early. Days before Valentine's Day.

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The twins emerged from the Target bag forest victorious. You would have thought they'd found rare truffles on the forest floor. They came running up to me, jumping up and down in glee, Valentine's candy boxes in their hands, begging to open the boxes, begging to eat the candy, begging, begging, begging.

What's a distracted mom to do? That's what I get for planning ahead...and multi-tasking.

Ultimately, I decided upon a little social experiment. I told them that the heart-shaped boxes were not to be opened until Valentine's Day....but...

...they could hold them and look at them and carry them around as much as they liked...as long as they did not open the boxes or eat any of the candy.

Guess what?

So far, so good.

They've stepped up. They visit their boxes. They decided their boxes should live under my desk in my office. They crawl under my feet, skirting the various wires and plugs of my computer equipment. They hold their boxes. They talk about how excited they are to get to open the boxes in a few days.

And then they move on.

Accidental parenting. It can be a good thing.

Particularly when one is learning the rules of the waiting game.

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