We’ve been practicing the command of “wait” in my household.
Sitting expectantly, my puppy looks attentively – for about five seconds. Then her eyes start to wander.
“Watch me” comes the next command. The gaze returns briefly before her bottom starts to wriggle out from under her. Impatience.
She reminds me of myself when I was a child during Christmas. The presents prettily stacked underneath the tree seemed torturous. What do you mean we have to wait to open to them?
When mom and dad weren’t looking (or maybe they were because the presents became more and more difficult to figure out), we would crawl beneath the lights to hold the presents bearing our names. What could it be? We’d feel the package, looking for lumps, we’d hold it to figure out its weight, and we’d shake it trying to ascertain what it could be.
At the end of my sleuthing, I’d walk away with a sense of satisfaction, thinking now I can wait it out: “Only X more days until Christmas.”
Sometimes Christmas morning would confirm my detection skills; more often than not, I was off base. But that didn’t matter because, at the end of Christmas morning, surrounded by my treasures, I had everything that I could have hoped for.
All that my puppy seems hopeful for is the next treat or piece of cheese. She’s a pretty smart girl, like many labs. She figures out quickly what she has to do to make a treat appear and then manipulates the system.
An example: before getting her food, we practiced obedience training. She would go through a series of commands – sit, lay down, stand up – before sitting in front of her bowl and waiting for her food. One morning, I turned around, kibble cup in hand, and saw her in the middle of our kitchen floor going through the motions.
“I’m doing all the things,” she seemed to say, before sitting in front of her bowl expectantly. We changed the routine after that.
As adults, we like to think that we’re better at waiting. While rewards are motivations, we like to believe that we’re capable of patience. We like to believe that we’re not very unlike the puppy whose bottom can’t seem to stay still. But are we?
Advent tests that patience. As Catholics, we understand the importance of the Advent season. We understand that we must prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming. And yet, each season, we must relearn the difficulty of waiting.
Waiting, for everyone, is hard. It’s not easy to be patient and wait it out.
I overheard an exasperated mother tell her child in Target the other day that the child needed to learn patience. Another mother leaned in and told her patience is often something that the kids teach their parents. They shared a smile and went about their business.
With the busyness of our lives and the length of our to-do lists, it’s easy to say that we don’t have time for waiting. We need to get things done, and they need to be done now. But in this, as in all Christmas-related things, we can return to our memories.
As the countdown to Dec. 25 grows shorter, the excitement mounts, and the waiting becomes appreciated. Our waiting prepares us for the things that we do receive, and often, we’re more receptive and filled with gratitude.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.