Wednesday, January 29, 2014

As Long as It Takes

I want to tell you the hardest part of starting the kids going to school: getting Cadence ready on time. When I nudged her awake, she'd cover her head with her quilt and moan. Then there was the dressing. I'd give her clothes and she'd sit on the floor looking at them, like she didn't know what they were or what she was supposed to do with them. I'd tell her a second time to get dressed and remind her that if I had to tell her to do something twice, it might mean that we would be late. "So obey the first time," I'd say. 

She'd finally trudge downstairs, which would've been a victory if she'd had socks on. Back up she'd go, with tired slumpy shoulders. During breakfast and I'd walk back and forth through the dining room to check their progress. I'd find her holding a half peeled banana with no bites taken out of it. "Take a bite," I'd say and a few minutes later, "Take a bite." Over the weeks, this grew to, "You need to keep taking bites. If you don't, we might be late."  

I was patient at first. Then I got stressed. The school sent an email about teaching our kids the importance of promptness because we'd racked up eight tardies. About this time, Cadence got angry. "Why am I always so slow!? Chandler's so much faster than me," she'd whine. I explained that he did things when I first asked him and he would take another bite as soon as his mouth was empty. In order to help her do this, I stood by her one morning, telling her to take a bite each time her mouth was empty. She glared up at me and told me she didn't like me standing there. 

It went on and on and I racked my brain, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Mornings felt like battles we both left unhappy. Would she ever figure this out? Why was this so hard for her? In case you're thinking she wasn't getting to bed early enough, we thought that too. Their school bedtime started at 7 pm and with her sluggishness, we started aiming for 6:30. It helped, but even when she was awake, she didn't move quickly. She told me she felt embarrassed when they walked in late because kids would say, "You're tardy!" So I knew she was motivated, but it still didn't get better.

One morning she wailed, "I just don't like myself in the mornings!! I go so slow!" This was what I'd feared - that she'd see her struggle as evidence she was bad. I was feeling kind of heartbroken and desperate, when a friend with grown children reminded me that portions of the brain aren't fully developed until the early twenties, so some skills take longer for some kids. She assured me Cadence would get there and it was okay for me to be that voice until she internalized it and could do it herself. 

Such relief. All that matters is they will get there. Not when. With my new confidence I was able to forget my finish line. When school started, I had this fuzzy six-week time frame during which I expected us to find our groove. When we'd long surpassed that, I panicked, but now I was ready to get down to business teaching her until she got it. Even if it took the whole school year. 

Our little sweetie once she's at school
On Monday I felt more calm. I got to tell her it's okay to be bad at something because when we start something new, we almost always are! And I'm here to teach you how. I made sure we weren't late by leaving at the right time whether everything was done (like breakfast and teeth brushing) or not. This gave me an answer for Chandler when he'd chime in with an exaggerated sigh and a, "I think we're gonna be la-ate!" 

"No we're not. You don't need to worry." 

The change was immediate. She improved so much that week, even without cereal a couple days. The next weekend was the time change, which made her feel like it was an hour later when she woke. This put her over the top. We still have mornings where more prodding's needed, but generally, we've found our groove. I think my stress was stressing her out. The pressure I put on us with my self-imposed deadline was too much for both of us. Which got me to thinking about the timing of things. 

What else am I insisting happens sooner than later? Marriage issues resolved? Letting the truth come out about a situation? People healing in their own messy, slow way? (As if there was another option.) Letting myself learn as slowly as I do? 

In Jeff Goins book, The In-Between, he says this:

It’s not the waiting we dislike; we understand some things take time. What we loathe is the time after what we deem to be an appropriate amount of waiting.

How do I feel when my finish line gets moved? Why am I so restless in the imperfect now? Do I think I'm less valuable when I'm a mess? Less loved? Because I think God's okay with my slowness. In his bigness and his grasp on eternal time, I think he knows it doesn't matter. If I'm a quick learner or a bumbling idiot, he'll still have me on the other side. 

This is commitment and determination at its finest. It's limitless giving and hoping and leaning in. How far will I go for you? As far as it takes. How long will I work with you? As long as it takes. 

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