It’s your life
And you can do what you want
Do what you like
But please don’t keep a-me waiting
Please don’t keep a-me waiting
Tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you
“C’mon, I’m standing here like a doofus waiting for you.”
This phrase, or some variation of it, is said multiple times a day in this house.
My husband and I are the doofuses.
My son is the one we are waiting for.
Waiting for him to decide to eat.
Waiting for him to finish eating.
Waiting for him to get in the shower.
Waiting for him to get OUT of the shower.
Waiting for him to be ready to go.
Waiting for him to put his shoes on.
Waiting for him to get in the car.
Waiting for him to get OUT of the car.
This young man will be 18 this summer. He’s got a moderate amount of independent skills, and we are working toward more all the time. But, due to his autism and related issues, he still needs our support in most areas. Which means our lives very much revolve around him. Before we can assist him, we often have to wait — he needs extra time to process what is being asked of him. Extra time to respond. Extra time to transition. Extra time for everything.
Despite multiple strategies to increase his processing speed — fair warnings for upcoming transitions, checklists and text prompts, positive-happy support or stern jolts of “because mom-said-so” — this kid moves at his own pace.
He needs time.
Which means we are waiting.
I know we’re not alone in this.
I’ve stood next to another parent in our school drop-off lane — two cars, two passenger-side doors open, two kids still sitting in those cars readying themselves for school (my child spinning his beads over the backpack at his feet; his daughter flapping her hands, one foot reaching tentatively for the curb). I could see this dad also summoning patience as a smile passed between us. Yep, we just…wait.
Thankfully, his teachers and staff are well armed with patience and understanding. They know that extra processing time is critical.
I understand it too, but the waiting still drives me crazy.
I’m not very good at just “killing time.”
(You know, if I did some squats and lunges every time I’m standing around waiting, I’d be more summer-ready. Sure, that might look strange in the school parking lot. But, hey, one of the benefits of taking your kid to a “special” school is that the other parents don’t question quirky behavior. From you or your kid.)
I really try hard to give my son time and not pressure him too much to get moving. It doesn’t ever really work to try to speed him up anyway. He’s got a pace that works for him, his own reasons for taking his own sweet time.
Sometimes he is pausing out of anxiety.
Sometimes he has to mentally prepare.
Sometimes he has to take the time to fix things “just so” before he can transition.
So I find myself waiting.
Waiting for his anxiety to settle.
Waiting for him to eat something so he can take his meds.
Waiting for his meds to kick in.
Waiting for his self-injury to stop, which is the hardest waiting of all.
Waiting for him to feel ready.
Waiting for him to finally get some sleep.
OK, sometimes I suspect his slowness is just regular teenage procrastination.
If he had the words, he would be whining “But Ma, I don’t wannnnnaaaaa….”
So, sometimes I react to that unheard whine with an exasperated, “Tough. Now, let’s go!”
Sometimes that works.
When it doesn’t work, and I get major pushback, I’m reminded that, most often, this kid literally NEEDS more time.
Figuring out what to do during the wait times is the tricky part. How much time do I have here? I usually have just enough time to start in on something, but never enough time to actually finish.
Inevitably, as soon as I decide to use my wait time to get something done, that’s when
he’s ready to go.
Sure, I can (and do) say, “Well, now you took too long, so you have to wait for mom.”
But guess who doesn’t like to wait either?
When my anxiety over waiting becomes his anxiety over waiting…
When the increasingly agitated refrain of “Go in the car – Go in the car – Go in the car” is coming at me rather than from me?
Then we’re both done waiting.