“Wait for me!” yelled my 4 year old daughter, Dari. My 8 year old son, Phineas and his older buddy had already raced out of our yard. They were half way up the street by the time my daughter got to our backyard gate. She couldn’t reach the latch and burst into tears.
“You can’t go with them, honey,” I told her. “You’re too young.”
We had just started letting Phineas run back and forth between our house and his friends’ place. It was one house down and across a narrow, quiet street. He loved the independence. He and his buddy tore around both backyards with light sabers when they weren’t nestled over an iPad doing Minecraft—stuff he could never do with his little sister.
Phineas liked to play with her, sometimes, but he got bored with her favorite game “Princess,” where she dressed up like one and he went along with the pageantry and tea parties—for about five minutes.
“I want to go with them!” wailed Dari. Tears ran down her cheeks. We could hear the boys’ distant laughter from a few yards away.
I gave her a hug and pulled her inside. I explained that her brother loved her, but he was older.
“He needs to play big boy stuff with his friend. That’s okay. When you’re older you’ll run around with your friends too.”
“I want to be older now!”
Dash, her other older brother, walked in. “Hey Mom! Can I use the car?” His timing was perfect. Dari didn’t even know where he was off to, but she started jumping up and down and begging to join him.
“Sorry, little girl,” he said. “You’re too young this time.”
Now both her favourite playmates and basically her two besties, were out the door. Without her.
Dari goes out a lot, actually. There are play dates and dance classes—not to mention all those unexciting errands with me. But she never gets to run out the back gate with her friends. That’s still years away. Most of the time, Dari is stuck with me. Boring mommy.
“I don’t want to be here! I want to be big!”
Not wanting to be here? My daughter’s anxiety reminded me of my own. How often had I wished that I could be in a different place and time? Had I started this young? Instead of enjoying my surroundings I often had that “I’ll feel better when…” attitude. I’ll feel better when I finish school. When I own my home. When I start working. When I stop. When I go. When I’m on a beach. When dinner’s ready. It was never-ending. And now here was my daughter. She had no idea how to live in the now. How to be happy where she was. She wanted what her brothers had—what she perceived as freedom in the great beyond.
I had just recently started thinking more about being satisfied with “the now.” Probably due to all those books and articles on mindfulness and ‘being present’ that had crossed my path lately.
“It’s great to be 4,” I told my daughter. “You are living through one of the best ages right now. Don’t wish to be older. Love where you are.”
She was still pouting.
“Let’s think about all the great things about where you are right now.”
My daughter perked up a little.
“You get to stay home. Home is comfy. Home has all your toys and books and your dress-up clothes. Your soft bed. What else?”
“My T.V. shows!”
“Yep! What else?”
“And . . . ?”
“And it’s loving and safe here. It’s your home. When you’re older you’ll take the car and drive places. You can leave and go out with friends. That will all happen. But don’t rush it. Be patient. That’s when you wait nicely. When you’re okay with waiting. Patience. It’s nice and easy.”
Dari’s tears were dry. She was already moving on to the next thing. A pile of papers and crayons she had left on the kitchen table. A drawing she wanted to get back to. She was good.
A little later I walked past her. Just sitting there. Staring out the window, a pensive look on her face.
“Dari? What are you doing?”
My daughter let out a huge sigh. “I’m being patient.” Spoken like someone inching closer to grown-up every day.