Friday, August 15, 2008

The Time it Takes

Why are we always in such a rush? This is a question I ask myself all the time. Why does a minute feel like forever when you are waiting for someone to make up his mind? And especially with Oliver, I wonder, why am I always in such a rush to help him? I've learned to slow things waaay, waaay down for Oliver's sake, and still, I have a long way to go. I'm impatient, I'll tell you that. But I'm also in the habit of underestimating my son. I jump in to "help him out" far too often.

What I know to be true is this: when Oliver understands what is being said, he is very likely to do exactly what you tell him. Put your shoes on. Put your plate there. Get dressed. Clean up. Get in the car. Problem solving and making inferences, however, are hard for my boy. So helping Oliver to figure out what to do is where I put most of my efforts during the day. I don't tell him what to do but rather focus on giving him the information he needs to make a decision and take action. For me the work is in the waiting; for Oliver, the work is in the processing. I think both of us are equally challenged. It's hard, I tell you!

Today, for example, we went to visit my mother who is recovering from surgery. When it was time to leave I said to Oliver: "You're the only one not wearing shoes!" Then we waited. After he put on his shoes and we walked to the car I opened the door and got Sami buckled into his seat. Oliver was dancing around the sidewalk next to the car as my Mom stood in the doorway watching. It is her habit to stand at the door and wave as we drive off. But Oliver didn't show any signs of getting in the car so I went 'round to the driver's side, got in and started the car. When the car started Oliver jumped in and got in his chair but made no move to close the door or put on his seatbelt. So I waited. And then I said, "I guess I'd better buckle up so we can go." Oliver took the hint, reached over, closed his door then fastened his seat belt. Then I mentioned that it was really hot inside the car but that the air outside was cool from the rain we'd just had. "I wonder if we could let some cool air inside?" I asked. And then I waited. And I waited some more. Oliver wasn't getting it so I hinted: "Maybe it is so hot in here because all of the windows are closed." Then I waited some more. Not a long time, mind you --seconds, really. I was watching the clock and felt the impatience rising and yet not even a minute had ticked by. And then? Oliver opened his window, I mentioned how good the fresh air felt, put it in gear and off we drove.

When I got home the phone was ringing and I rushed in to get it. On the other end was my mother wanting to know if something was wrong. "You took so long pulling out!" I thought back over the scenario and wondered how long it all took. Five minutes? Seven minutes? Surely not ten minutes. And yet, it made both of us -- my mother and I -- so uncomfortable. Funny, isn't it? I remember back to the early days when I was in such a rush to get Oliver everything he needed -- so many hours of this and that. I wish someone would have told me then the value of seven minutes spent patiently waiting.


  1. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Wonderful post!

  2. Wow, that was incredible! I can soooo relate to this. I am trying really, really hard to build extra time into our routines so that Nik can do more by himself. It's hard; harder for my husband who doesn't quite get that it's more important that Nik put his own shirt on than it is to be "ready to go" to wherever... *sigh*

    Huge progress, Christine. So inspiring to me.

  3. Anonymous9:53 AM

    I love this post, Christine. I relate to so much of it. Yes, the processing... And yet, once it becomes familiar (at least for my son) it's like second nature to him, but the road to "familiar" is long.

    I often think about the routines I've built into our day--getting dressed in exactly the same order every day (bathroom, wash hands, brush teeth, comb hair...) After 3-4 solid years of this, he now does it w/o thinking about it.

    And boy, can I think of more than a few times when I've rushed in, impatient, anxious for what?

    Great post!!

  4. Anonymous3:59 PM

    yes! why are we in such a HURRY!!!!?????

    i'm right there with you, christine, coaching myself through those seconds spent NOT jumping in.

  5. Encouraging Oliver to think for himself is going to pay off down the road . . . He is one lucky boy to have you as a mom!

  6. Who knew 45 seconds could last so long, right? lol I have to keep myself from making successive declarative statements before ds's 45 seconds is up.

    We live in such a fast paced world. There are days I wish we lived in the wilds of Alaska or something just to slow it down more.