My children seem to need me constantly, and at incredibly inconvenient times. They come tearing into the bathroom like they’re on fire, demanding I right some injustice I can't necessarily decipher (it's hard figure things out with shampoo streaming into my eyes). So when I let them know they’ll have to wait a second, their response is typically overdramatic. I’m sure my kids are having devious thoughts when they hear “in a little bit,” but their high-pitched attempts to commandeer my time will not defeat me, my friends. Oh no, I will not be defeated.
I have no recollection of learning how to be patient. Perhaps it was just too painful a memory. Dramatic? Sure, but that’s what I am led to believe given the reactions of my children when I tell them to slow their roll. Honestly, though, how are they supposed to learn that the world does not bend to their every whim if I'm constantly dropping everything to tend to them? When they were babies, of course this was necessary, but they are 9 and 6 years old. They need to not only gain more independence (“No, I will not get you water. You can manage that yourself.”), but they need to understand that if they want their time and space respected, they need to prove they can respect the time and space of others, too. After all, I'm not trying to raise jerks.
Still, they’re kids and they have emotions and sometimes those emotions get the better of them. Even if they’re not having an outright fit about it, I know they’re probably thinking one (or all) of the following things when they demand my attention and I tell them “in a little bit”:
"One Second Feels Like Forever "
Being told to wait is the worst, but with my kids it’s like I’ve asked them to wait literally on pins and needles. That’s how much noise they make about it. It’s getting to the point that I’m telling them to wait longer than I need them to, only to be able to tell them (usually three seconds later) that their wait time has been reduced. That's when I look like a hero and not a sadist. It rarely works, but I have high hopes it will catch on eventually.
"She’ll Watch Me If I’m Louder"
If I ask my kid to “hold on” because I’m busy (in the bathroom, on the phone, or just mentally ill-equipped to deal with whatever his deal is at that second), it is a guarantee that he will just ask me to look at him three seconds later in a louder voice. That voice will then grow louder still three seconds after that. He has not learned that there is no volume dial on patience.
"I'll Get My Way If I Keep Repeating Myself"
If my kids don’t think they’ve heard me, they not only get louder, they just start repeating themselves. One particularly annoying tactic is to ask me a question and then, instead of waiting — barely — for my answer, they start badgering me over and over again, saying, “Tell me! Tell me why!”
"Staring At Her Creepily From Three Feet Away Will Work"
Worse than the yelling and the repetitiveness is the stone cold silent stare from my kids, usually when they're standing right in front of me. It’s some Children of the Corn stuff right there. I could just feel them looking at me with vehemence, raging inside that I have told them they are not the most important thing for me to deal with in that very second. They stare, they seethe, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. I can’t give in, though. If I can’t teach my children the benefit of delayed gratification in the act of waiting for someone’s full attention, they will grow up to be assholes.
"My Mother Wants To Ruin My Life"
This is the obvious go-to thought, especially for my tween daughter. Everything I seem to do these days is to deliberately make her miserable, from serving linguini instead of rotini, to not agreeing to bake brownies whenever the mood strikes her.
"Is ‘A Little Bit’ Supposed To Last More Than One Second?"
I should know better than to use the phrase “just a second” with my kids, because they take it so literally. So I try to use general terms like “just a little bit” or “in five minutes.” But in those moments of having to wait for me to give them my attention, the minutes drag.
"Childhood Is A ‘Now Or Never’ Situation"
There is no “later" when it comes to children. There is only right-this-very-second or not-at-all. My children, at ages 9 and 6, have trouble with the subtleties of timeframes. “A little bit” might as well be next year, from the way they collapse in frustration when I tell them they have to wait that long. It’s much better when I give them firm amounts, such as “five minutes” (which doesn’t abate their whining, but it at least manages their expectations clearly).
"That Gives Me Just Enough Time To Make The Biggest Mess Ever"
The one main drawback to teaching kids to be patient is that they may use that time to completely wreck your home. It’s only when my children are quiet for a little while do I hightail it to their rooms to see what messes they are making.
"What Can I Break To Get Her Attention?"
In the early stages of learning to be patient, kids act out. Mine would occasionally destroy something as payback. First I’d realize that it was way too quiet (see above), then I would discover some item of mine (for a while it was my lipsticks) utterly demolished. They may not have even intended to cause damage, but when left to their own devices they make my life harder than it would have been had I just put my phone call on hold and given the kids a minute of my time when they asked for it.
"I’m Going To Pay Mom Back By Pretending I Can’t Hear Her When It’s Bedtime "
What goes around comes around. I can’t help but think that whenever my kids suddenly can’t hear me, it’s retribution for me not paying attention to them at some earlier time. I have never been more invisible to them than when I’m telling them to shut off a screen or put on their shoes or brush their teeth. It’s uncanny.