You’ve said it. You’ve heard it said. You’ve annoyed someone with it, and someone has annoyed you with it. Once I reveal it, you’ll get it, but until I reveal it, I have one, small piece of advice to help you get through this laboriously wordy stalling period: Just wait.
If I think back upon my first solo parenting trip, I can remember the intense anxiety. I can remember being overwhelmed by the logistical nightmare of needing to have so much stuff. I had to be prepared for every possible contingency and each minor hiccup felt like a big deal. Without my wife and her body’s magical ability to produce soothing food on the spot, I always felt at a great deficit. If my daughter was hungry, I needed food. If she was thirsty (OK, same thing, but still), I needed to have a drink. If she needed a diaper, a change of clothes, or anything at all, I needed to have it.
But what if I needed to urinate? Do I take her with me? I have to. But do I hold her in one hand, and my, ummm . . . self, in the other? Every small decision felt heavy. Every tiny issue felt bloated and out of proportion.
Feeling frazzled, another parent saw my distress. You won’t believe the brutal words they laid upon me.
Yeah, you guessed it. They “just waited” me.
“Oh, I remember those days. JUST WAIT until she can crawl,” she said.
The social media headline would proclaim a “truth bomb” had been dropped. The YouTube title would be, “Veteran parent drops NUKE on helpless dad.” I smiled and politely replied, “Yeah, I bet.”
This didn’t bother me at first. I wasn’t offended. This was just someone trying to be nice. Someone trying to recognize my struggle and maybe offer up a little chuckle. My internal dialogue, however, was different. I wondered if maybe I was being dramatic. I began to look around and think the other parents were judging me. Did they see my struggle? Were they all whispering salacious gossip about the idiot new guy?
Humans seem hardwired with a need to diminish the experience of others. It doesn’t matter what it is or who it is, there’s always someone ready to imply that what you’re feeling is invalid, unnecessary or ill-informed. We seem eager to elevate our own suffering and diminish the suffering of others.
“Oh, you’re struggling with one kid. Ha! Chump! I have THREE kids, JUST WAIT until you have more.”
“You think it’s hard now, JUST WAIT until she’s dating.”
“JUST WAIT until he’s driving.”
“JUST WAIT until they are in college!”
This permeates every part of our lives.
“I feel sick today.”
“Oh, yeah? JUST WAIT until you have stage four colon cancer.”
“My assistant manager position is challenging.”
“That’s nothing. JUST WAIT until you’re a store manager.”
“Mr. T-Rex, I hear you’re having a bad dino-day, but JUST WAIT until the asteroid shows up.”
On and on it goes.
I’d like to challenge dads, parents — honestly — all humans to make every effort to battle this innate tendency. What if we simply allowed people to feel what they feel? What if we didn’t seek out subtle invitations to make every conversation about ourselves? There are some folks who will bemoan the softening of society. I don’t think we’ve gotten soft. We’ve become entrenched in our own need to be the most right, the greatest martyr, and along the way we’ve lost our empathy.
Instead of telling that new parent he should “just wait” until some other challenge comes up, meet him in that moment and say, “Yeah, that’s challenging, but you’ll be fine.” If someone tells you she’s sick, don’t tell your story about being MORE sick, just say, “That sucks.” Not every part of the human existence is a competition. Grant people the freedom to feel what they feel.
It’s important to end this with one, major caveat. There shall forever be one usage of this phrase that will endure for all ages. You know what I’m talking about: “JUST WAIT … until your father gets home.”