One evening this week I listened as boy number 1 and boy number 4 played together in the bath. I led on my bed whilst they giggled and wriggled and whilst they shrieked and splashed and my mummy heart couldn’t have swollen to a bigger size. Later the aforementioned boy number 4 came into see me and began by saying “mummy, I have discovered a problem. No wait; there are actually two things that I need to tell you. Well they’re not really problems. They’re just sort of things that we need to discuss and sort out. You see, what I have found out is…” And my mummy brain thought, “For the love of all that is Holy, will you GET to the point!” Of course I didn’t SAY that. I THOUGHT that. In fact I often THINK that. Parenting for me is absolutely definitely full of the swollen-mummy-heart moments. But my goodness, there are an awful lot mind numbing life sucking ones to drudge through as well. Enter my second “parenting note” (see the first one here): Patience.
I don’t think there is a more impatient creature on the planet than a toddler. My Mr. Almost-3, if wanting to gain my attention, employs one of two plans. Plan a: shouting “mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy”- no commas. That would suggest drawing of breath. And plan b: crying which lands at an assortment of decibels – those worthy of the Richter Scale through to those ridiculous silent shudders with accompanying hiccups. And when I finally get there? It’s usually because his sock has fallen off, his juice bottle has rolled 3 cm away from him or there is a teeny tiny crumb on the carpet messing with his equilibrium. Give. Me. Strength.
But impatience is not solely the preserve of toddlers. Nothing makes you aware of the passing of time in the same way as when trying to get AN-Y-WHERE with a toddler. And nothing makes you question the meaning of life quite like having to sit through a 6 year olds first foray into the world of joke telling or attempting to reason with a stroppy pre-teen about homework. There are definitely no two ways about it; Parenting needs to be served with a HUGE dollop of patience. And I think deep down we all know this. But, how often do we catch ourselves saying, “come on, hurry up” or “quickly now, we’ll be late” or “get a move on, we need to be there”? Well here’s the thing: as much as our children seem to be the least patient organisms known to humanity, in complete contrast, they do in fact need US to be the most patient people in the world – the most patient people in THEIR world.
It’s tough. I know. I really, really know. Especially 4 weeks in to the school summer holidays.
When boy number 1 is having a meltdown because I haven’t got time to explain myself… I just need him to do what he is frickin told the first time I ask for once. Or when it’s tipping down with rain, and boy number 4 wants to see EVERY. SINGLE. Slug. (Passing comment about its position and general state of mind)… I just want to get in the car. NOW. Or when boys number 2 and 3 are arguing AGAIN over something I recently sorted out. Like 2 minutes ago. And all I want is for them to play nicely for 10 minutes so I can have a cup of tea in peace. In these moments it’s a challenge to not really lose my shizzle and, to misquote Miley Cyrus, crash in like a wrecking ball all over their needs. Their need to be heard; Their need to learn and discover and delight in the world around them; Their need to pursue justice and resolution.
So here we are then. People with an average amount of patience, needing to scrounge together more patience than a… er… gathering of saints (do they have gatherings?) or something. And, if by some miracle we manage to own such a quantity of patience, we also need to be ready to throw it out at a moment’s notice, in a variety of settings. Much like someone throwing out chicken feed I imagine. And I wish I could tell you all the answers. I wish I had a handy list of things to do or not do that would unlock the magic solution to. But really, the only thing I know for certain is this: You will fail. I will fail. We all will fail. From time to time, we will all forget to have patience. In fact sometimes, it will become obvious that we haven’t just misplaced our patience, we took it out for a long walk and lost it years ago – probably somewhere up a blind alley. But I do have one tip to offer for what it’s worth…
During those wanting-to-stab-your-eyes-with-a-fork moments, or in the if-I-have-to-do-this-again-I’m-going-to-scream scenarios, try not to take it personally. Seriously. If your child is taking a painful amount of time to tell you a story it’s because they need to be heard – and they need you to hear them. If your child is taking a ridiculous amount of time pointing out the most inane things on the pavement, it’s not because they are deliberately trying to make you late, it’s because every trip out is an opportunity to learn. And if your child is pushing back, testing the boundaries, it’s because they are trying to work out how secure they are – How secure YOU are.
Have you ever noticed the amount of patience you have to offer is like a gazillion times more with other people’s children than your own? Well I think it’s because with our own children it DOES seem personal somehow. Listen. I’m not an expert. But I do know that my children have rarely read my schedule and are usually far too wrapped up in their own needs to work out manipulative ways to disregard mine. For some reason we can accept this a whole lot easier when it comes to children who don’t belong to us. When it comes to our own it’s really tough to circumnavigate the pressing-of-every-single-button sensation and find the patience we so desperately need to provide. But if we choose to not be personally offended or frustrated by what our children need from us in that moment, if we choose to step into their world with them rather than get annoyed that they won’t step in to ours with us, then I reckon that illusive patience might be easier to pin down. Oh. Lord. Have. Mercy.
Just two more things.
Number 1. Do not beat yourself up about losing your patience. It will happen. It will probably happen A LOT. Although learn to apologise – yes, even to your children. We need to normalise this stuff of getting it wrong and moving on from it.
Number 2. Do not judge other parents for losing their patience. We’ve all been there, in a supermarket, feeling uncomfortable as a struggling mum finally snaps at a curious toddler who is being less than helpful to the task in hand. And I bet we have all BEEN that struggling mum (or dad) too. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Lend support if appropriate. Offer a kind word if there is an opportunity to do so. Or simply go on your merry way, safe in the knowledge that in the not too distant future there will be a perfect opportunity for you to throw all of the patience at all of the situations yourself.
So there we are. The second note in my parenting mood music: Patience. I know these words are coming at you slower than a toddler walking in the rain observing every slug in their path, but next up is my third and final and most definitely favourite one in the composition. So hang on in there. I promise you, the crescendo is coming.
See you on the front line… and if you see me stabbing my eyes with a fork, please don’t judge. Possibly remove the fork though. And I promise I’ll do the same for you. OK?
Helen – x –