In my mind, patience is like great wealth. Some are born with a naturally abundant supply; others build it up over time. Mostly, I just feel like I’m lacking it and wonder what the hell I could do to get more. My rope is dishearteningly short, and it doesn’t take me long to reach the end of it. But I’m trying to learn for the sake of my children who didn’t ask for a mother who “can’t even.”
Frustration happens, and it always will. It’s not like it ends with our kids — the world in general is never going to stop frustrating us, from the light turning red when we’re running late to noticing the empty toilet paper roll after we’ve done our business. And when something makes us impatient, we can react in one of two ways:
We can let it make us angry and stressed and turn into the snapping, snarling, asshole that we hate being, touching off that inevitable cycle of guilt. This does no one any favors, least of all our kids who are so often the targets of our intolerance; we just turn into the grossest, most unlikable versions of ourselves.
Or we can try our best to deal with it mindfully, pausing before we react, thinking before we speak, and taking however long it takes to understand the reason we feel like ripping our hair out. (This goes well with bonus option 3: hightailing it to your nearest secret chocolate stash.)
When my kids have pushed me to the brink, I ask myself if I’m expecting too much of them. After all, I already know the things they’re still learning. What now seems like second nature to me through years of practice and conditioning is relatively new to them. Tying their shoes takes them 10 times longer because 1) they haven’t been doing it for decades, and 2) they’re distractible like all kids, not having mastered the art of complete focus.
I try to think about it in terms of treating them how I would hope to be treated. I would despise trying to learn the ropes at a new job with an unfairly demanding boss or in a classroom with an instructor who is teaching at an unrealistically advanced level.
And if my husband followed me around barking about how I needed to do this better or that faster, you can bet I’d tell him where to go.
I try to remember that they’re people. Yes, they may be frustrating-as-hell, slow-as-molasses, stubborn-as-all-get-out people, but people nonetheless. Regardless of age, nobody likes to be continually pushed, especially if they’re trying their best. And just like the stoplight doesn’t turn red out of spite, my kids aren’t being exasperating with the sole purpose of ruining my day — even if it feels that way.
There are occasions when they feel crappy just like we do; days can be bad, and circumstances can be sucky. It can wear on them and affect their mood. And in times like these, patience is the best gift we can give them. Instead of discipline, they need an understanding ear and a hug. Empathy and compassion go a lot further than pressure and annoyance. When I’m having an “off” day, I want to be understood and comforted, not berated, and my kids are no different.
Look, my patience is still not on the most desirable level, and sometimes not even my strategies of mindfulness work (I mean, easier said than done). So when all else fails, I pretend I’m being filmed for a reality TV show and have to be on my best parental behavior. Nobody acts like an ass to their kids when there are witnesses around. Have you ever seen Michelle Duggar lose her shit on one of her twelve thousand offspring? With that many kids, you know she’s got to have her moments…but cameras.
I’ve got a long way to go before I’m as easygoing and tolerant as I want to be with my kids, but I know it’s important that I keep trying. In the meantime, I hope they’re patient with me as I learn to be patient with them.
How’s that for irony?