“Piano Piano Johanna”. I heard that from my mother more times than I can count. There was a good reason for that, you see it is an Italian phrase for slow down…take your time, and unfortunately for me, it was something I was never good at. I can remember, even as a youngster, I was quick to make a plan and put it in place. Now, one would typically think that is a good trait, and ordinarily, I would agree. However, when that hurried plan of action is formulated by a wet behind the ears young lady, who was completely unaware of her wetness (ok..you know what I mean), things are bound to go down badly. Allow me to explain.
Although I was oblivious to this character flaw in my formative years, I now see that my slightly compulsive, control freak demeanor, shaped my life in a variety of ways…both good and bad. I was always a good student….. and was ambitious…… which got me a great part-time job in a dentist’s office……which got me business skills and a strong sense of responsibility……..which helped me get into my college of choice……..with a partial scholarship……..which was important because I needed to finish college early……. like in 3 and a half years……which allowed me to get a jump on job interviews over the June graduates……because I needed to get my dream job at a financial institution on Madison Ave in NYC…….because I needed to save money and get married……..and buy a house…….and start a family………………..I said, and start a family……….. “Piano Piano…don’t be in such a hurry, children will come”. My mother could never have imagined that her prediction would take ten years to come to fruition. And there you have it, the impulsive and impatient one needed to learn how to wait. That was my initiation into the wonderful world of waiting. It sucked, I did not like it, and wanted no part of it. Like I really had a say in the matter.
So after I got pregnant with my girls, I thought my waiting days were over. My pregnancy was smooth sailing, considering I was carrying twins. Things were moving along, at a good clip, just the way I liked it. And when the girls arrived, my control freak alter ego was helpful. The house was organized, bottles prepared, laundry done, the girls thriving……..until they weren’t, which was around 18 months. I can remember thinking to myself…”I can fix this….just a bump in the road, nothing to see here”. As luck would have it, there was plenty to see, and the bump in the road turned into a treacherous terrain that even my superhuman surveillance skills could not maneuver.
It felt like waiting was all I did…..waiting for the evaluation to be completed… waiting for them to meet their developmental milestones…waiting for the girls to meet their new therapist…..waiting for the school program to start…..waiting to get an appointment to see that new doctor…….waiting to see the results of that new medication trial. But by far the worst kind of waiting is the excruciating waiting you do when you realize that you are no longer in charge. For someone like me, a self proclaimed fixer, it totally threw me for a loop. What a wake-up call that was.
Now, as it turns out, waiting is something that can be taught. My girls, like many kiddos with autism, are not good at waiting. We started a waiting program, and we used a simple kitchen timer. We started with 30 seconds, and moved up gradually. The expectation was for them to wait patiently, and be praised and reinforced for their good waiting. This program proved quite helpul, and to this day, when the girls are in a situation or doing an activity that they are not fond of, I pull out my trusty timer, and they are able to predict that an end is in sight, and be patient until that time. Come to think of it, I know a few adults who could benefit from a waiting program. I won’t name any names. It is difficult, however, to teach an old dog new tricks. Old, impulsive, short tempered dogs, with zero patience and no desire to change. Yup, enough said.
The other day my neighbor waved to me happily “Johanna, so great that finally, things are going back to normal, all the waiting paid off”. I half smiled at her, and thought to myself that some of us are still waiting, never mind, she won’t get it. But the Covid Pandemic did put people’s patience to the test. It also illustrated clearly that changing our behavior, and adopting a more tolerant outlook is difficult to embrace in a world where we expect immediate gratification.
And I get that. Now, you can fast-charge your devices, because traditional charges just took too long. You can get your General Tso chicken delivery, by a helmeted ninja, on a moped, in the blink of an eye. News is available online just moments after it breaks. Yes, fast is best, or so I am told.
Waiting for society to view our Special Needs loved ones with respect and inclusivity, anticipating our government to work across party lines for the good of its constituents, expecting long-needed progress on the social pandemic that is illegal guns…..seems no one figured out how to speed that up.
Better get a bigger timer.