Air reminds me of fairies. To spot a fairy, you need to have lots of patience and be able to wait. To be a parent also takes lots of patience and the ability to wait. Waiting is a skill children can develop too. Even very young children. The way to learn is through practice and having the reward at the end worth the wait. At the Pikler Institute in Budapest, where I studied, it was a highly acclaimed orphanage for many years (akin to our foster care system in the US). The caregivers each had eight children in their care. Consequently, the children learned to wait.
The children learned that it was worth the wait because the time together (bathtime, for instance) was such a joy for them, that they knew if they waited, all would soon be well. And it was. At their turn, the child had 100% of the caregiver’s attention.
The pace felt as if they had all day. Every gesture of the child was noticed and responded to. All the verbal and non-verbal communications were answered. All the detours were followed. The child was fully seen, and the caregiver was happy to meet this unique child in this unique moment.
The amazing thing was, years later, these children were able to form secure attachments and were emotionally and relationally unharmed by their time in the orphanage, unheard of for an orphanage.
Today, our children need to learn to wait. They can’t and shouldn’t have all your attention all day long. A child would rather have 100% of your attention at rhythmical intervals throughout the day than 30% all day long. Ask them to wait whenever you are in the middle of something or need time to yourself. And when the waiting is over, make sure it was worth it. If they are just learning to wait, don’t make them wait too long.
In my class, I ask the children to wait a lot. They have to wait to go inside and wait to eat a snack and wait to have a toy if another child has it and wait for me if I’m not available yet. And I don’t forget, and I do what I promise. Sometimes I say to them, “I know, waiting is hard.” And sometimes we wait together.
(If you haven’t already heard of it, here is a brief review of the marshmallow experiment and below is a short video.)