“Show we some patience!” I screamed over the sound of boiling water, the timer going off, and a voice two feet off the ground that was whining again about lost Play-Doh.
Of course, as soon as the words left my mouth – biting in tone and disdain as they hurled at my toddler – I realized how silly I sounded. What a conflicting message to send someone – apathetically yelling to practice restraint and patience.
I was immediately aware of my error and apologized, explaining to my son that I too hadn’t shown much patience or leniency in the situation and that wasn’t right.
Seemingly unaffected by the confrontation, my little boy went back to looking for his Play Doh and I went back to cooking, but I was still bothered by my reactive comment and realized that irritation had become a far-too-common response from me as of lately.
Like everyone, I’m a busy woman with a lot on my plate including a career and raising a family, so feeling stressed isn’t exactly atypical. Here’s the thing, though. I KNOW I’m an impatient person, probably more so than other moms in similar situations. It’s a character flaw I work on daily and I’m particularly cognizant of letting it sneak out when I’m with my toddler.
When my son was really little, that was an easy emotion to monitor and suppress because he allowed me to lead. But now he’s three, so he’s at the age where he is establishing his independence. While that’s great and totally normal and a quality you WANT in a child, it’s incredibly hard to navigate when you’re naturally impatient, yourself.
Most days can feel like a struggle. He wants to put on his own shoes, even when we’re running late for something. He wants to brush his own teeth even thought it takes an exorbitant amount of unnecessary time. He wants to clean up his own toys, even though he’s awful at it and I’m just going to have to do it again, later.
My point is that being a parent requires every bit as much of a learning curve as being a kid. You may be teaching them how to use a spoon or say “please” or potty train, but they’re teaching you all sorts of things, too.
Or, at least they SHOULD BE teaching you if you are willing to pay attention. That’s what being a good parent is – adapting to the nuisances and characteristics and personality traits of another human being. Good parenting is learning the ebbs and flows of your own child’s challenging traits and helping direct them in a healthy and positive manner.
In the three years my son has been on this planet, he has taught me a lot. I’ve learned to be significantly more compassionate. I’ve learned that “not crying over spilled milk” is actually a very important life lesson. I’ve learned to find little joys in things I never did before and I’ve learned to stop being so hard on myself when I mess up. I’ve learned that hugs and affection are never overrated and that my mom was right – Karma IS a bitch and “he’s definitely your strong-willed child” as she likes to remind me.
Admittedly, I’m still working on the patience thing, but aren’t we all?