Parenting

Why I'm Going To Stop Saying 'Wait A Minute' So Much

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“I’ll be there in just a minute!” I yell to my kindergartener for the 50th time today.

He wants to show me his Lego creation. A slight variation on the one I already got up twice in the last 10 minutes to see.

I summon all the enthusiasm I can muster on a Tuesday afternoon and go look at what he built. Again. It looks like the ruins of a house that’s been in an earthquake. At least a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. One that caused massive structural damage and resulted in Lego people stuck to the crumbling roof of their house.

“It’s awesome!” I say.

I’ve learned it’s important to be present for our kids now, not when it’s convenient, because it’s never convenient. Even though we’re tired. Even though we’re busy. Even though there’s 100 things we’d rather do than look at a Lego house for the millionth time or watch his Ninja Turtle and dino puppet routine again.

Fighting the urge to tell my son and my toddler daughter “just a minute” is something I wrestle with everyday. Of course, there are many situations where it’s unavoidable. I’m cooking dinner and can’t leave it alone. Ha! Just kidding. I don’t cook. OK, my husband is cooking dinner and he can’t leave the water boiling unsupervised. Or I’m in the middle of an important phone call.

Kids having to occasionally wait for our attention teaches them patience. But it’s too easy to brush them aside over and over again for our convenience. Because we’re in the middle of a TV show. Because we’re cleaning the bathrooms. Because we’re just not in the damn mood.

No one tells you at your baby shower when they hand you the adorably gift-wrapped onesies that kids are exhausting, time-sucking creatures. They don’t say “little Katie is going to have massive poop blow-outs that will probably ruin all these precious outfits I’m giving you. And when she’s done pooping, she’s going to want all of your attention. And then more of it after that.”

No one tells you that as your kids get older, they only get more demanding of your attention. They don’t tell you that throwing more kids in the mix just makes it harder to make sure each kid gets a piece of you.

You don’t hear that kids often try to get your attention in the least-appealing ways possible. Like screeching really loud. Or yelling inappropriate things. Or hitting. Of course, ignoring the more positive calls for attention just make these negative ones worse and more rampant.

No one tells you “kids are annoying.” But they are. They’re super cute and squishy, but they also grate on your nerves. Hearing “Mooooooommmmm!” over and over isn’t exactly easy listening.

It’s so tempting to tell our kids “just a minute.” But when we do that, inevitably something truly important pops up that we have to take care of. And that minute with our kids is lost forever.

The other day my toddler said something to me that was a little jarring. At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her right.

I asked her to come to me, and she responded in her still-baby voice, “In a minute!”

“What did you say?” I asked her. She repeated herself. “In a minute, Mama!”

She’d clearly learned it from me. And the words came as naturally to her as “Can I have a snack?” or “I’m sleepy.”

I needed to do better. My kids deserve better.

Maybe when we push our kids aside we just lost the chance to see that slightly altered Lego house for the zillionth time. But maybe we missed the chance to demonstrate our support of their creativity. Maybe we lost the opportunity to have our kid legitimately beat us at Zingo and gain some much-needed self confidence. Maybe we lost the chance to snuggle and tickle and tell jokes, if even for a few minutes in between laundry loads.

Our days are exhausting. Depending on our responsibilities, they are filled with morning routines, work, school drop offs, dance classes and sports lessons, grocery shopping excursions, cooking, cleaning, homework, and bedtime routines, to name a few. We all crave a break from the chaos.

But the chaos and all the sweet little moments swirling around in it will be gone as quickly as it arrived. So, I’m going to take those breaks when I can get them. But I’m going to try to summon the energy to pull my kids onto the couch with me when they come up to me, and say, “Show me your latest Lego castle, Baby.”

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