Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Please Don't Tell Me to "Just Wait"

It happens at least once a month. I’m in the grocery store with my two kids. They are riding together in the much-loved race car shopping cart, holding hands or hugging or snuggling with arms draped over one another’s shoulders. They are both giggling over something: a game they made up, maybe. The one that just involves shaking each other’s arms up and down while you laugh.

An older parent sees them: my two little love bugs who bicker just like any other siblings but who are best friends and utterly inseparable. The parent smiles and approaches. “They’re so sweet together!” And this is the point where I wish they would stop. Smile and let me smile back and then we can each happily go our separate ways. But they don’t stop there. They never do. “Just wait. They’ll be at each other’s throats before you know it.” Sometimes I’m given a timeframe: “Just wait, they’ll hate each other when they’re teenagers” if the parent is feeling generous. “Just wait, in six weeks they’ll be fighting nonstop” if they’re not.

Honestly, I don’t think they’re trying to be mean when they say it. Perhaps they’re trying to warn me, to help me brace myself for the inevitable. Maybe they’re remembering when their own kids were little and wishing that this kind of sibling relationship had lasted just a little longer. But however it’s meant, whatever the motivation behind it, it always sounds the same in my ears: "I can see that your kids are getting along right now. That for one, brief, beautiful moment, parenting feels easy and you think you’re actually doing a reasonably good job at this whole mom thing. So I feel that it is my job as a complete stranger to let you know that soon your kids will be crying and you’ll be crying and everyone will be crying and life will be terrible. Just wait."

But this minute of peace in the shopping cart is all I’m clinging to some days. The holding hands in the grocery store is what my one last shred of sanity is hanging on. Because last week I was wiping endless snot from both noses, and the week before that I cleaned up a whole lot of puke. There was a temper tantrum as we were getting ready to leave the house this morning because my two-year-old hates pants and another one because I had the audacity to try to help my five-year-old buckle himself into his car seat, and then as soon as we were finally all dressed and buckled and actually in the minivan ready to go, somebody needed to poop. I’m tired, and I have a nagging fear that I am screwing everything up. But at least my kids love to hold hands in the grocery store. Yet it seems like every time my kids openly get along with each other in public, someone feels the need to come over and stomp on the moment.

I know that things change, parents of older children. I’m only five years into this parenting gig, but I’ve learned a few things about change here and there. The baby who was my “good sleeper” gave up naps completely when she turned two, and my “good eater” recently declared that a dinner he has always loved “tastes like bleh.” I realize that nothing stays the same and that kids change overnight. I grew up as the middle child in a family with three children, and believe me, I know first-hand how much siblings fight. I’m not under some weird delusion that my children will be the first brother and sister in the history of the universe who get along every second of their lives, spending their twilight years sitting side-by-side in a retirement home, reminiscing about how they never once fought, not one single time in 85 years. 

But right now, they really like each other. Right now, they are best friends. Right now, they are holding hands in the shopping cart. Please just let me enjoy that.

It’s not just good moments that elicit a “just wait” response, either. Heaven help the pregnant mother who declares herself to be tired. “You think you’re tired now??? Just wait until you have a newborn waking you up every thirty-five seconds all night long!!” Don’t dare complain about the terrible twos, because – just wait – age three is so much harder. If things are going well, just wait, they’ll be bad soon, and if things are already bad, well – just wait, they’ll get worse. I’m not saying these things aren’t true, I’m just saying they’re not helpful.

Parents who’ve had more experience than I have: I love talking to you. It’s reassuring to know that my kids won’t still be begging to sleep in my bed when they’re 16 or going to college in diapers. Your “been there, done that” attitude can be so helpful in reminding me that no stage of childhood lasts forever. Last month, a mom at an indoor water park watched my kids playing happily in the shallow end of the wave pool. We smiled at each other, and I said hello. She told me that she’d taken her daughter to the water park every year when she was little, and that she’d brought her back again this year for her sixteenth birthday. The daughter and her friends were off riding slides together, and the mom was reminiscing as she watched my little ones splash around. We chatted for a few minutes, both watching my kids play with their daddy, then went our separate ways. And I loved the reminder to enjoy the moments when my kids are always nearby, when I am their favorite person in the world. Keep reminding me of that, experienced parents. Tell me your stories. Share your wisdom.

But please – don’t tell me to just wait. 

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1 comment:

  1. Love it...yeah just wait.... especially for the day you can remind them of their bond and know nothing can really break it. Enjoy every moment!