Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dilly Dally: Tales of a Lady in Waiting

My three-year-old is testing my patience.


Okay, maybe it's hourly.

She must have been listening back in April when my mother came to visit. During a dinner table discussion of appropriate manners, my mother shared a bit of her family history with my brood. "When I was a child, my mother told us that my Grandmother's Grandmother was a Lady-in-Waiting for Queen Victoria."

I heard the Lady-in-Waiting story often when I was growing up. My daughter did not ask her Nana what exactly a Lady-in-Waiting was. But apparently she liked the sound of it so much that now waiting is all I ever seem to do. After all, there is a family tradition to uphold, right?

Sadly, my patience is not as boundless as it might be.

Here is a partial list of the tasks that cannot possibly be done in less than 30 minutes and without an elaborate cajoling ritual...

  • Choosing clothes/Getting dressed for the day: First we must have a "favorite colors" guessing game or a "guess what shirt I'm thinking of...?" game. Then comes the "I need you/I don't need you" tug-of-war.
  • Putting shoes on: Oh, and they're slip-ons, by the way. God help us when it's time for tie shoes. And we can't forget the issue of matching shoes to one's outfit. (Gah!)
  • Brushing teeth: She must brush, then I must brush. "First, count to 19," she will say before handing the brush to me as I slowly pull out my rapidly greying hair.
  • Getting into the car: Not getting to the car... just into it. She has to do a super-jump and climb into her car seat, smoothing the back of her shirt just so. Otherwise, she will spend the entire ride complaining that it "frickles."
  • Getting out of the car: Frickling is not a problem getting out. We are usually searching for a lost item before getting out -- a marble, barrette, or toy. Today it was a bit of plastic from a juice box straw wrapper. She's meticulous... I'll give her that.
  • Putting on a jacket: Here we fall victim to "I'll do it myself" syndrome. Even the zipper. It takes For-Ev-Er.
  • Choosing a book: I love to read to her, but often 20 minutes of looking will have her settling (finally) on a book with 6 pages.
  • Any meal: She just wants to talk to whomever is at the table. She's a social girl... that is, until dessert is served. Then she's full (except that she has room for dessert.)
  • Bedtime: Tonight I was kissed by no less than three dogs, two bears and a blankie. I then had to fight for a kiss from my daughter playing "you can't find me" under her bedsheet.
Let's face it, by the end of the day, I'm exhausted. My sweet, darling girl has figured out how to monopolize my time and attention as often as she can. I get exasperated with it, quite honestly. I wonder when she will ever just stop playing all the time.

And then I think, What Is Wrong With Me??

She's three. And playing your way through the day is what age three is all about. It's also about asserting your independence (which has issues of its own -- trust me.) But mostly, it's about operating on your own "schedule" and doing things in your own time.

Since the boys are so independent, I guess I had forgotten that.

And then something happened yesterday while I was planting my garden that made my parental hypocrisy meter top out. I was planting a bed of Basil when my daughter came up and asked me to play soccer. "After I'm done with these Basil plants," I told her. She waited. She made conversation. She made up a game to make the waiting go faster, which I played with her as I planted. Finally, she left for a few moments and returned.

"Are you ready to play now, Mommy?"

It hit me that I was "playing" in my garden while she patiently waited for me, doing whatever she could to spend time with me. (And also, I am an idiot for making her wait like that.)

So I stopped planting, and we had one heck of a backyard soccer game. Of course, she had to blow a whistle and say, "Argh, he's in the stretch, there's the pitch!" and pantomime a swing for the fences before every kickoff. (Apparently, she's a pirate baseball-playing soccer player??) We also had to establish before kickoff exactly who would be allowed to score the goal. And afterward, she would shout, "SCORE!" and do that breathy crowd noise thing. And despite my sham sorrow at losing yet another point to the masterful mistress of soccer, I did my best to hide my tears, extend my hand, and say, "good game." And then we'd start all over again.

We played for a long time, but it was fun, so that makes it time well spent. In the end it was my own little Lady-in-Waiting who taught me a lesson about patience and being considerate. And about making time to play.

I wonder what my daughter's Grandmother's Grandmother's Grandmother would think of that.

- Midwest Mom


  1. I really enjoy your writing. I love the way you vented out your perspective first and then came around to your child's perspective recognizing the value in it.

    Your patience will pay off in a wonderful bond with your daughter!

  2. you don't sound like as if you are losing your patience... i think your post reflects that you are having a great time... you are lucky that you are she has engaged you into paying her ample attention... have fun!!!



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  3. This is a charming post--a good reminder of perspective and being around toddlers!

  4. Wonderful post - your writing has a warm and cozy flow to it! As for toddlers, they are exhausting, and this too, shall pass. I can remember the gritting my teeth during our dilly dallies too and the only thing that seemed to keep me sane was saying thank you's for the healthy babies in my life.

  5. Nancy,
    Thank you for coming by and for your comment. My daughter is such a friend. I hope our relationship remains close as she grows.

    That's a good way of looking at it. She is engaging! Thanks for the visit!

    Green Girl,
    It's so funny, now that my boys are more self-sufficient, I feel like I have toddler-raising amnesia! Yesterday was a fun way to get perspective.

    You're right -- that kind of gratitude goes a long way when you're a Mom. ;D

    - Julia

  6. LOL this all reminds me of our days here,don't get me started on the bedtime LOL and all of the toys I have to kiss and all of the songs I have to sing. Plus a story plus as soon as I live she comes out too (she forgot to tell me something) LOL

  7. Firefly,

    Oh... and I forgot to get a drink!


    - Julia

  8. Frickles- I'm still laughing about it.

    Yes, this is THE hardest adjustment I have made to having a child... operating on his schedule and not mine. The best days are ones where we have no schedule and we can just operate on toddler time. The worst are ones where we have appointments, meet-ups, and chores to accomplish because I want to move at top speed and he resists.

    I'm glad that today you were able to let go and have a fun soccer game, but as I tell my husband, it can't always be like that or NOTHING would get done and that is the root of the frustration.


  9. Actually you sound like a mom to a 3 year old. What's funny, is all of a sudden they turn 5 and we wish they were 3 again LOL. Then they turn 10 and we wish they were 5 again.

  10. Thank you for reminding me... to have patience and remember to see it through their eyes..

  11. This is both a funny and sweet story. I too have a dilly dallier on my hands but at least it has taught me to eat my meals slower. Right now we are off to talk a walk around the neighborhood, most likely we will literally stop to smell the roses along the way

  12. Abby,
    You're right. There has to be balance. But I can't expect her to stop being 3 and start being thirty-something. What fun would that be?? Yes, it's frustrating, but that's just life with a toddler,I guess. :)

    Thanks for coming by. You're right about the nostalgia thing. I feel it with my boys all the time.

    Welcome! Let's hope that seeing things through their eyes will keep us young. I know I smiled a lot more when I decided to give in a play a little. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

    Laurie (Playground Observer),
    Oh, don't get me started on walks! We can spend 30 minutes just getting from here to the corner! The upside is that she notices things that I would just breeze by. Sometimes, especially on a nature hike, for instance, that can lead to some pretty awesome discoveries.

    Have a great day, everyone!
    - Julia


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