As a parent, I’ve been given loads and loads of advice, but the one phrase that sets my teeth on edge is “just wait.”
I’m usually told to “just wait” as my children are doing something sweet or dangerous.
For example, as my 2-year-old tries out the new-to-him words dump truck and forklift: “Oh, that’s cute now. Just wait until they start talking back to you.”
Or after my 4-year-old gives me a giant squeeze on the run: “Enjoy those hugs now. Just wait, soon they won’t want you to hug them, let alone be seen in public with you.”
Or while my child is running around the kitchen with a spaghetti pot covering his eyes: “Oh, he’ll give you a run for your money. Just wait until he starts playing [insert dangerous full-contact sport here].”
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t want to “just wait.” Indeed, my children are little right now. Which means our days are filled with trucks and crayons and bite-sized pieces of very specific foods. We watch cartoons, go to the library, run errands, take walks and go about the business of growing little people, bit by bit.
The short time we’ve been parents has zoomed by at warp speed. Wasn’t it just yesterday we came home from the hospital with our oldest – dumbfounded and shocked by our amazing fortune? No? Oh wait, that was almost five years ago.
Through those nearly five years, we’ve experienced joy, heartbreak, wonder, worry, frustration and fascination. We’ve tried to be fully present in each moment and phase. “Just waiting” for a rapidly approaching future isn’t really our style.
I do understand the full meaning of “just wait.” I’ve never been a wish-I-could-keep-you-little kind of parent. Sleeping through the night and a life without diapers? Both sound pretty awesome, no matter how cute and delicious-smelling babies can be.
It’s amazing and hard watching these helpless little beings build their independence brick by brick. Before we’re truly ready, our boys will be off to school, building lives that aren’t completely created by us. We’ll help them grow into caring, wise young men, their futures stretched out in front of them.
The parents who tell us to “just wait” are farther down the parenting road than we are. The tantrums and new discoveries our children experience now are a distant memory for them. Where their children are in life seems so much more daunting, and they remember earlier years with a hazy fondness.
I get it. The philosophy of “little people, little problems,” though, feels condescending to me. Of course my preschool-aged children aren’t experimenting with drugs and using the Internet. But their developmental stages are just as difficult and thrilling for them, and for us. Telling me to “just wait” takes the air out of our parenting sails, discounts the joys and frustration of learning as we go.
One Friday morning our oldest got himself dressed and ready for preschool, then joined his brother at our bedroom window. They watched the sanitation crew at the curb empty our garbage tote into the truck. Two little faces peering out a frosty window at men doing a hard job. Soon, I know, they’ll forego such excitement. All I can think as I look at those two perfect round heads is “just … wait.”