I used to think I had endless patience. And then I had a child.
Having kids has challenged my belief in how “amazingly patient” I am, and made me question everything. Because sometimes, kids can just drive you Up. The. Wall.
Take this morning for instance. Every morning I push Baby E in the stroller with two dogs tied around my waist, while 3 year old M either rides his scooter or bike along with us.
Often this is a pleasant morning outing as I adore our neighbourhood and there are some lovely trails to meander. Other days, it is the stuff of nightmares. The last two days, M has had great fun pretending to be a dog, while simultaneously feeling compelled to pick up every piece of garbage we see. So the morning looked like this:
- Take about three steps.
- He gets off his bike to pretend to ‘Poop’.
- Asks me for a poop bag to pick up his pretend poo.
- Decides he wants to hold the (empty) ‘full’ poop bag on his bike and tries to ride with one hand. (He has only just learned to ride so now we are moving at -1 km/hr.)
- Stops to pick up some garbage. This annoys me because there is a ton of garbage, but I want to raise a responsible individual so I smile and say, “Good for you.” He smiles back and tells me he is being “con-chee-en-chee.” (Conscientious.) It’s adorable, but I’ve heard it before, so I’m not as enthralled.
- Stops to admire the garbage cans that have been put out for garbage day.
- Rides VERY slowly by the storm drain that we see every day but still fascinates him.
- Stops to pretend to pee like a dog on the grass in the park.
You get the picture.
Outwardly, I am (sort of) sweetly encouraging him to keep moving. Inwardly, I am stabbing my eyes out with a fork because it has been 5 minutes and we are barely out of our cul-de-sac. This continues. And it is here that I have to tell myself any of the following things to help me not yell, “MOVE FASTER!”, because really we are in no rush and he is just being 3.
- He is Learning – Everything is learning, even though sometimes it’s hard to see. He is learning everything from rhythms and patterns in nature by observing tress and plants, to how a city functions by noticing the garbage and recycling bins that have been put out. Heck, riding (slooooowly) with one hand is teaching him balance and coordination, I’m sure. When I take the time to engage him and interact and answer questions, I’m helping him grow, even though it feels like it is shrinking my brain power.
- It is Just a Phase – I wrote an entire blog post about these 5 life-saving words already, but I repeat them to myself ALL THE TIME. Yes, the phase of childhood wonder is a lonnnnng one and we’re not even half way there, but in the grand scheme of things, these behaviours will not last. He will stop pretending to be a dog in a day or two. He will grow out of his fascination with garbage cans and storm drains eventually (Probably. It has been two years so it’s hard to say for sure!). Soon a walk will just be a walk and he, too, will be more concerned with getting it over with and moving on to the next thing than he is with savouring every moment, and that will actually be a sad day.
- What Else Have I Got To Do? – Well, a lot, actually -there’s always something to do – but RIGHT NOW in THIS MOMENT, what else do I have to do but be here and be with my children? I find often the sense of urgency that I am feeling at a particular time – whether it’s to ‘finish’ the dog walk, or to get out the door for an activity – is self-imposed. As a SAHM, my day revolves around my kids. Yes, there’s plenty I have to do, a nap schedule to adhere to, and sometimes things that we have to be at on-time, but the majority of the day I notice that I want to speed it along just because I’m bored with what we’re currently doing, not because we have anything else we NEED to be doing, and not because the kids aren’t content.
- He Is My Most Precious Treasure – Ok, this sounds a little foofy, and truthfully, I am normally telling myself this AFTER I have been impatient because I yell and see his face fall and then think, “Ugh, what am I doing?!”, but if I ever say it BEFORE losing it on him, it helps me to keep perspective. Nothing I have to do is more important than moulding and shaping these little creatures into happy, healthy human beings. That does not mean they get to rule the roost and I spend my whole life waiting for them, but it DOES mean that my goal is to patiently instruct. Sometimes that instruction is, “Sorry dude, we need to hurry up and we can look at that later”, and other times that instruction is, “Yes, the garbage cans get put out once a week. And yes, they’re all lined up on the curb like that, aren’t they? And do you know which ones are for recycling?”.
- “Have Patience, Have Patience…” – It’s a song I learned when I was probably 7 or 8, but when all else fails, I seriously sing to myself (or out loud) a ridiculous song about Herbert the Snail (The chorus: “Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember, that God is patient too, and think of all the times when others had to wait for youuuuuuu.” Just be careful, because people look at you like you’re cray-cray when you launch into this is public, but I promise it’s a better song and dance routine than my “Mommy’s Losing It” number.
For the record, although these little ‘mantras’ help me keep it together a lot of the time, every day is still a constant prayer for grace, patience and forgiveness because it seems that parenting little ones requires an infinite amount of endurance which no one could possess on their own. So above all, a little prayer of “God help!” is a big ‘ol source of strength to keep going, however slowly that going may be!