Fun the Waits Away
by Susan Besze Wallace
The woman stared into space, the preteen next to her looking similarly bored and annoyed. I was awaiting an orthodontist appointment for my second-grader, his preschool brothers in tow.
My kids made up voices for model jaws. Theirs were the only voices in the room. The scene haunted me long after our exam chair went upright. Eight parents, each with a child, not communicating one bit — unless you count the six electronic devices. They sat so close, but seemed far apart.
Yes, waiting can be a drag. We do it to get seated places, to see the doctor, to grab the receipt … there is no end to “in-between” time. But everyone complains they don’t have enough time. So maybe it’s not so in-between.
While we wait, we have minutes to connect, squeeze a shoulder, ask about a day, play a game, pose thoughtful questions and bond. Time doesn’t count any less because it’s on the way to something else.
My attitude about waiting was born, again and again, in a doctor’s office. I may have had bronchitis as a child, but I also had my mom’s full attention and compassion. I savored sickness.
My husband and I try to channel that when waiting with one or two or all three of our kids. What animal does that cloud look like? Let’s try to count the squares on the ceiling. What was your favorite thing about our week? What letter does ‘doctor’ start with? That may sound like a teacher who’s had one too many Mountain Dews. But an engaged child — or mom — doesn’t have time to whine. I’ve avoided major meltdowns and used waits to become more of the kind of mom I want to be: patient, focused and fun.
Certainly silence can be golden, and there is peace in just being. But watching those teens in the waiting room that day, I made a choice to “fun” the waits away. Now it’s tradition. And my kids are posing the questions.
Here are some ideas for rethinking waiting:
- Learning. When my youngest broke his clavicle, I thought I’d scream waiting for radiology. So, AJ, how do you think people decide to become doctors? He left with an arm in a sling but feeling empowered, hugging “white coats,” and talking about medical school. We also searched for things in the ER, starting with each letter of the alphabet.
- Observing. During one wait, I had my son put his hand in my purse and see if he could describe what he felt. His face lit up at this little game. We use whatever is in front of us to get them thinking. How old do you think that tree is? Is this store bigger than our house?
- Delving. At the post office: If you were a letter, where would you want me to send you? I love getting inside my children’s heads and hearts. And it works both ways. Say, “When I was little …” and watch their anticipation.
Author and former MOPS leader Susan Besze Wallace waited a long time for Zach (8), Luke (5) and AJ (4), something she tries to keep in mind when losing hers in a line somewhere.