I have never been the type of person who was known for my patience. Whether it’s stage of life stuff (married at 20, first baby at 21 etc etc) or simply not having the ability to sit in a traffic jam without wanting to pull my own eyelashes out, I was definitely back of the line when it came to handing out the gift of patience.
We have some friends who still delight in reminding me of the time we were flying to Berlin and I unleashed my wrath on the barista in the airport who literally took the rest of my life to make a drink*…leaving him quaking in his boots. I actually only offered to come behind the bar and assist him with his job as he was clearly having such a difficult time of it…apparently it was something to do with my tone of voice. Go figure.
I am fully aware of my inability to remain calm when I’m frustrated. The dictionary defines patience as ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.’ – I don’t say it proudly but I fail on all those accounts.
Of course, there is no better forum for one’s patience skills to be tested than when you become a parent. I have spent the last five years trying to remain calm, to not yell or get frustrated with the kids. After all, they are just being children aren’t they? But sometimes I am sure that they do it on purpose. That when children are born they come with a little ‘how to’ manual and number one is ‘how to wind your parents up.’
My parenting kryptonite is repetition. I’m sure it’s not just my children who do this, who feel the need to repeatedly ask the same question over and over, even when, even when, they’ve had the answer they are looking for.
‘Mummy, can I have a biscuit?’
‘Yes Eli, just a minute.’ *gets up from chair and walks to cupboard*
‘Mummy, can I have biscuit?’
‘Yes Eli.’ *Opens cupboard to find biscuits*
‘Mummy, can I have a…’
That’s my head, by the way, exploding in a grisly parental mess all over the kitchen. It just gets under my skin.
I HEARD YOU AND I ANSWERED YOU SO WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME AGAIN!?!
The logical, detached part of me knows that it is just how children are wired but in that particular moment, oh the eye twitches!
Another bugbear I have is that children just don’t have any concept of time. So when they take their shoes and coat off and lie prostrate in the middle of the lounge pretending to be a stick, minutes after you have just hustled them to the front door and tried to leave, they really are perplexed at why you are so cross with them.
Recently however, I’ve really felt the challenge of showing patience to Meg and Eli. Of not snapping when I’ve asked them to do something for the tenth time that morning, of not rushing them to finish whatever is taking them an extraordinarily long amount of time to do. To accept them in this life stage, even though some days I feel as though my eyes are going to burst out of my head.
It’s not easy.
I’m not always succeeding.
But when I watched Meg last week trying to show Eli how to do something and after he’d tried twice, snatching the item out of his hand and doing it for him, in that moment I saw a reflection of myself and I didn’t like it. I am the snatcher, the ‘give it here, I can do it ten times quicker than you can’ person, the ‘hurry up, hurry up, HURRY UP’ person. It’s not an attractive quality.
This year Meg will be 5 and Eli will be 3. I am in a funny predicament because as much as I want them to hurry up in their day to day lives, I also really want them to slow down. To stop growing up into little people right in front of my eyes.
I want my children to learn patience. I want my children to learn kindness. I know that when I am frustrated because something isn’t going as quickly as I want it to, that I am not showing my best to my children. I am not instilling the right attitude in them. Which is what I aspire to do always.
So, I am going to try. I hold my hands up and say that I’m not always going to get it right but I really want to learn how to have patience with my children, whatever the situation and whatever they throw at me because if I can’t learn it now whilst they are small, then how on earth are we going to weather the turbulent storm that is teenager-dom?!
But how, exactly, does one learn to be patient? I haven’t got this down to an exact science but here are my thoughts:
If you are the praying sort, then pray at the moment when you feel yourself getting wound up. I certainly need to do this more as I know it can alter my mood instantly and turn it away from the things I am annoyed at and on to something much more worthwhile. If you aren’t the praying sort then simply a moment to breathe and reflect. Wrangle your mind away from the issue which is winding you up (even if it’s something as simple as trying to do a puzzle with your little one) and conjure up some thoughts about things you can be positive about instead.
2. Imitate Those Around Me
I’ve known a handful of people throughout my life who have just been the most patient people going. It’s intriguing, how they manage to be so patient over things which would have had me tearing down the walls. I wish I could spend a day in their heads so I can see exactly what they are thinking at the time but alas, that’s not possible. Instead I have to just opt for imitation…how would so and so react in this moment etc
3. Take A Timeout
As an introvert, I need time by myself, to recharge my batteries and deal with the million thoughts bouncing around my brain. If I don’t get that space then I don’t approach situations with a clear head. Basically, I’m already worked up before the day has even begun. Although sometimes it feels selfish, in order for me to be my best, I need to schedule time in to switch off and just be me, by myself. Even if there’s only time to lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes, if that means I can catch my breath and start again, then it’s worth it.
4. Apologise and Start Over
If I’ve had a particularly short-tempered day I always end it feeling crappy. I know I should have more patience, be calmer, I know I should be better. But I’ve come to realise that beating myself up doesn’t actually help me or anyone else. What I need to do is apologise and start over the next day and try to get it right more often than I get it wrong. This one is definitely a work in progress for me. Along with being able to let myself off the hook, I’m also not very good at saying sorry!
Do you struggle with patience? Have you got any great tips for how to have more patience with children? I’d love to hear them!