“But when can we go,” my daughter asks for the third time in the time span of 5 seconds.

“Soon, please just be patient,” I tell her while haphazardly tossing crackers, a banana and anything else considered remotely healthy into a lunch bag.

“But when?!” she whines.

Take a breath; I tell myself, she’s just excited to see her friends. And you should know better than to expect a toddler to be able to be patient.

“Soon, just give me a couple of minutes,” I reply, “I promise, really soon.”

I remember being this impatient as a new mom, when it felt as if the life I knew was tossed into a food compressor and pulsed, blended and mixed until only small chunks of what life used to be was visible.

Lack of sleep, sagging body parts, leaky lady parts and being at the mercy of a small human was a huge adjustment to make. Especially on lack of sleep. All I could focus on was when things would get easier.

“One day the baby will sleep.”

“Don’t worry; you’ll get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.”

“No, you won’t be a human food service for the rest of your life.”

“Of course you’ll have free time. It just takes awhile.”

“But when?” I’d ask.

“Soon,” my mom/tia/friend/pediatrician would reply.

“But. When?”! I’d ask through clenched teeth.

If I’m being honest, it’s always been like this. I’ve constantly been waiting for something. I’m the type of person who not only lacks patience but regularly needs something to look forward to.

In high school it was looking forward to the weekend or a summer trip to Ithaca, New York. In college it was spring break or vegging out in the dorm watching “Gilmore Girls.”

Out of college, it was an upcoming date, a family trip to Paris or s night of dancing with friends.

But When? Was the question that loomed over my relationship with my now husband as I waited for him to ask me to move in, then finally to marry him.

Then I became a mom. And I’ve realized that as much as my life has changed, there are still elements of my past life in play.

I’m still myself only with more responsibility and a tendency to cry more than I ever thought possible. I’m still looking forward instead of sitting comfortably in the present.

Of course my daughter is impatient, she’s watching and learning from her mom who had activities marked on calendars months in advance and the women. Her mom who had been known to mutter why-isn’t-this-Starbucks-line-moving-any-faster when life is moving too slow.

How can I not expect her to want life to move at a pace more aligned with her wants?
For all these reasons I can empathize with my daughter when she has to wait. I understand how hard it can be.

How do I explain that several of those “But when?” questions will be answered with swift responses and for others the response will take time – minutes, hours, months, or years.

So many of those milestones I looked forward to when my daughter was an infant, now a toddler, have been hit – some quickly and others not so fast. Time has provided responses to many of those questions I asked in the early stages of parenthood.

“But when will she be able to dress herself?”

Time: Have you noticed that now, at age 3, she’s beginning to want to pick out her clothes, mismatched socks, sparkly shoes, a beanie?

“But when will she sleep in her own bed?”

Time: When she’s 2 she will have no problem sleeping along in her room. But no guarantees that she’ll stay in bed …

“When will the tantrums end?”

Time: That’s easy. Never.

As much as I miss those days of being my daughter’s favorite person, serving as her source of nourishment, her stylist and her transporter as I carried her on my hip, I’m happy to gain some semblance of my life, only now it’s a little more hectic, a lot louder and a heck of a lot more richer. (In quality, not money-wise.)

But I find myself tearing up when I think of how quickly responses to my questions are being delivered. Because every answered question means a new milestone, another growth spurt, another step my daughter takes away from me as she finds her footing in this world.

“But when, mama?” she asks, pulling on my pants.

“Soon,” I tell her, staring down into her hazel eyes that convey frustration and excitement.

Much too soon.