We’re all enjoying the benefits of Jaron’s parents visiting for a few weeks… projects getting completed around the house… laundry magically washed, hung out to dry, and neatly folded on a regular basis… the best kind of childcare… belly laughter and high pitched squeals of joy… an impromptu trip to the beach…. special treats to taste. We have been grateful for the opportunity to share our new world with them, for their willingness to be explorers with us, and most of all for their love and support.
These days have reminded me of some reflections I had several weeks ago when we were at youth camp. They still apply.
Q walked hand in hand with Neville Bartle, our District Superintendent, down the hill and across the grass toward the beach. It was sprinkling lightly, but he was chatting all the way. My giddy feeling of relief was quickly followed by a twinge of guilt. It has been a challenging season for the parents in our house. And for the 3-year-old as well.
I’ve heard little people in this age category described as threenagers or threenados. Both seem fitting.
Tantrums appearing out of nowhere. Meltdowns over the silliest things. Lack of body control. So many necessary consequences for disrespectful words, disobedient actions, and straight up defiance.
More than once, Jaron and I have looked at each other and shrugged in confusion over a little body that had crumpled to the floor in tears and frustration over something we were failing to understand.
“Next time it’s time to go to the park, I’m not going to want to go!”
“Next time I can have a special treat, I’m not going to!”
“I don’t want to do anything fun!”
“I’m not going to play with any friends!”
“Can you help me choose my clothes… No, don’t help me with my clothes. Go out!!”
“Get out of here, Brother! I am not going to play with you!” He doesn’t have a brother. Or a sister.
Real words in the midst of anger, tears, and self-imposed (and sometimes parent-imposed) time-outs in the bedroom. The emotions have erupted out of nowhere on days when he’d had plenty of sleep, healthy food to eat, more than adequate attention, and numerous opportunities to do something fun and engaging. Remove any one of those factors and the volcanic activity skyrockets to hazardous levels.
By the time we watched Q skip off with Neville at camp that day, we were exhausted. A few minutes of a reprieve felt like a gift.
Q returned from his adventure full of tales of fishing for Nemo with sticks they’d found, soccer game play-by-plays, shells they’d gather to use as digging tools in the sand, embellished versions of the 3 Little Pigs, and a cute little rhyme he has repeated numerous times.
The reprieve from Mommy had been a gift for him too, it seemed.
I reflected on the way kids need grandparent-types—biological or otherwise— to shower them with undivided attention, spoil them with things or activities that seem like treats, and give into the rapidly changing whims of a small child. But my reflections quickly turned inward. Two whole hours without a whine, a complaint, or a crumpled-on-the-floor-crying-fit. Two. Whole. Hours. It seemed impossible. What was I missing?
The next morning as the two wandered off again for adventures only known to them, it hit me. The footsteps. They were slow. They were careful. They were wandering here, then there. My footsteps are quick, direct, and purposeful. These two walked exactly side-by-side. How often did I walk 10 steps ahead, calling back over my shoulder, “Come on, Honey. Walk a little faster, Buddy?”
Sometimes slow footsteps aren’t an option. Sometimes my child needs to be hurried out the door if we’re ever going to get out the door at all. Sometimes 3 year olds and adolescents alike just lose it.
But what about the other times? What if I slowed my steps wayyyy down? What if I didn’t watch the clock on my phone? What if when I shared our To Do list with him I didn’t put a time frame on it in my mind? What if I took a page out of Grandpa’s book?
I put it to the test one day when we didn’t have a mum’s group or kindy hampering our schedule. We had three errands to run at three different locations: buy a birthday gift and a thank you gift, purchase 7 items at the grocery store, purchase 3 items at the bulk bin store. It would involve getting in and out of the car three times. It would probably push the 12:30 lunchtime boundary. If disaster struck, the last one could be postponed.
I armed myself with snacks and the determination to take it slow. Even our departure time was delayed by a shared snack before we left. Even though I always pack snacks when we leave the house, we’d really be testing Q’s internal I’m-hungry-and-I-need-to-eat-lunch-bell.
We slowly walked the length of the mall to find what we were in search of. Q perused every toy, pushed every lever, felt every stuffed animal, and commented on every action figure before settling on a game and a book for the birthday gift. We walked across the parking lot to the book store, slowly, while he munched on raw cashews out of a Tupperware container. I declined when he asked if we could ride the carousel. He conceded. We talked about our favorite horses on it as we walked by slowly. At the bookstore, we searched out the other half of the birthday gift by plopping on the floor to read half a dozen books, look for hidden pictures, and re-read the gift book just to be sure. Errand #1—gift buying–accomplished. 1 hour 45 minutes. No tantrums. No whining. Time consuming. Miraculous.
The you’re-teetering-on-the-brink-of-lunchtime-alarm was going off in my head, but we headed to the grocery store. 30 minutes. Boom. I can handle that. In a world where we’re still navigating a new-to-us grocery store and new-to-us food products, that was a win for everyone.
Errand #3 proved to be easy. The bulk bin food store carries his favorite granola which we were planning to buy. We thanked the store owner and climbed in the car. As I pulled into the driveway, I realized I was tired, but not harried. I felt accomplished and peaceful. We accomplished our To Do list. And we enjoyed it. We enjoyed each other.
There are plenty of days when it isn’t possible for three “short” errands to take three hours. But there are a few days when they can—when I can match my steps and my pace to a three-foot-tall person who is busily exploring his world, wondering about how the carousel works, and requesting that every book be read aloud.
There are hours when tantrums happen. Out of the blue. For no reason. And, there are times when my slower steps and less-hurried persona cultivate peace in my little person. And I am reminded to take a page out of Grandpa’s book just a little more often.