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A Sense of Urgency

Children are born with a certain sense of urgency about them. At 3 weeks old, Wanda’s needs are all immediate. If her diaper needs changing, “BLAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” If her stomach gets less than half full of milk or if the milk in her stomach contains some microscopic component she doesn’t like, “BLAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” If she suddenly finds herself in the mood for a little cuddle, “BLAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

And she’s a pretty easy-going chillaxed little baby. She’s not colicky or sick in any way. She’s just young and has needs and wants them filled BEFORE she needs them! I’ve watched my other two kids grow and mature, and their needs seem to be slightly less urgent and immediate than are Wanda’s. Where Wanda needs what she needs 10 minutes ago, Magoo at age 4 only needs things right this second and Laylee at 6 can be persuaded to wait for sometimes as long as an hour with relative patience.

Today for example, Magoo wanted someone to play with him. Well, what he really wanted was some televised sedation but after I told him to go play, he decided he needed Dan or me to be his accomplice. I was having a PTA website-related crisis that caused me to be on the phone for an hour with someone in Australia while nursing the baby, sitting on a hard wooden stool, and typing one-handed. Dan was alternately helping me and working on a personal computer project, one of the many tasks he’s set for himself while being home for a month on paternity leave.

We asked Magoo to wait until we were done. So he did, for a minute. Then he asked us to play with him. He waited another 30 seconds and asked if we were done. This continued pretty much the entire hour of the Australia/nursing/typing hubbub and eventually when the PTA was back together again and the baby was sleeping, we did a giant dinosaur puzzle together and he was appeased.

Then at bedtime, I said goodnight, sang him a song, gave him a kiss and walked out. Not 10 seconds later he was hollering for me, “MOM! MOM! MOM! I’m SCARED! I need you to lay with me!” Sometimes when my kids say they’re "scared" at night, I think their only fear is that we're downstairs having fun without them. I was leaning towards that theory tonight because the fear was so sudden and so urgent in a well-lit room he shares with his sister. He also found himself unable to explain what he was scared of.

As I’ve gotten older, my needs have become less urgent and immediate (with the exception of chocolate). I can take things slower. I’m more patient. I can usually convince myself that even if things are really horrible at the moment, they will eventually get better. Most of the time. Sometimes. Okay. I still have a bit of a sense of urgency about me, but I’m convinced that if I’ve made this much progress in 30 years, by the time I’m 85 or 90 I’ll be so chilled out and patient you’ll hardly recognize me.

For the time being, I’m hoping I can learn to be patient enough about my kids’ impatience that an outside observer can tell which one of us is the parent without checking birth dates on our photo IDs.

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