I have trouble waiting for anything: a paycheck, the weekend, a manicure to dry.
I distinctly recall a friend telling me in elementary school that you should eat dessert first, because you don’t know when you will die. I have found this to be sage advice. I have also found that having a bowl of ice cream before my chicken and peas is hard to justify to my three young kids.
But I’ve grown used to risking the consequences of my impatience.
On the lookout in high school for the fake identification I’d made with my older sister’s birth certificate (I didn’t even wait for her to approve the fraud before I took the document into the Department of Motor Vehicles), I zoomed home on the freeway each afternoon until the I.D. arrived in the mail — risking not only jail time but also my life and others’.
In college, I couldn’t wait the requisite four years to move out of the sorority I had joined. I hated the sleeping porch, lined with bunk beds and entered through doors that clanged, especially, it seemed, in the middle of the night when people chose to mount the steps to the rooftop smoking deck. My sorority sisters could only, and inconveniently, access this platform through the communal bedroom.
I had to get written dispensation from a doctor saying that this environment was a strain on my nerves — plus plead with the house president, to gain early release from the agreement I had signed.
Furthermore, I am always the most impatient person in line.
Before drive-through ATMs, visiting the bank used to infuriate me. Why did tellers have to double count money from merchants? Why was I always stuck behind people making especially complicated transactions?
Justice was served, I suppose, when I nearly lost a college bank telling job for cashing a fraudulent check without going through the extensive list of required safeguards.
I tend to get drunk off of two beers due to the alacrity with which I gulp them down.
Only in meeting deadlines as a journalist has haste ever served me well.
So you can imagine my chagrin when my children, right from birth, began exhibiting the same impatience that has tortured me my whole life.
My kids screamed for their bottles. They are prompt with their homework but easily frustrated. When events don’t swing their way, their meltdowns can be epic — despite the fact that they hate any sign of impatience in me.
“Where’s my other sock?!” my 7-year-old squeals in anguish the moment she can’t find a matching pair.
“Can I have more milk?” my son asked the other night, demanding again, “more milk!” before I’d had a chance to reply to his first request.
“Get it yourself!” I yelled back.
When I later replayed this exchange, I saw the cruel symmetry with which my son’s impatience mimicked my own. I vowed in the future to exercise more self-restraint, to become more tolerant, to try to reach the next moment with a little less haste.
So far, I’m failing miserably. A recent invitation to a barbecue highlighted this fact.
“Please,” my 10-year-old daughter begged, “don’t make us the first to the party.”
Despite her pleading, we arrived when the hosts were still setting up. Thankfully, they were already dressed and downstairs. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to let myself into festivities before they started because the host was still in the shower.
But there are worse things than having an impatient mother — than always being early — I’ve tried to reason with my children. At least, I tell them, we are never late.