The (Impossible?) Art of Patience

It was a typical Saturday.  I was upstairs doing some work while my mother-in-law, husband, stepson, and daughter were hanging out downstairs and getting ready to head out and run some errands.  Then I heard it.

Please be patient!

Only something was different.  It wasn’t the tired pleas from my husband asking my daughter to just wait for a moment for something.  It wasn’t even grandma, here for a visit, asking the kids to hold on.  No, this time it came from the mouth of my 4-year-old.  She was talking to her dad who was eager to get going whereas she was coming up to say goodbye to me and grab a toy for the road.

It was a moment that made me stop and think.  For how often, as a parent, am I requesting that she be patient and then turn around and start demanding she hurry up and get going when I’m ready?  Sadly, more often than I’d like to admit.  The thing is, we often want our children to practice patience despite our showing virtually none of it ourselves.  With us not being able to show it, how do they learn it?  We’re giving them conflicting messages in what we say and what we do.

I do think part of the problem is that many of us parents are naturally more disorganized than our pre-child selves so we’re frantically trying to get out the door to some appointment we’re already late for and that sends us into a tizzy.  We underestimate the time needed to get everyone ready.  We get caught up in whatever it is we’ve had a few moments to do and spend those extra 5-10 minutes on it, much to our later chagrin.  And instead of looking at ourselves as to why we’re late or frazzled, we look to our children who just aren’t doing things at the speed we’d like.

I’ve been trying to think about the ways in which I can work on my patience in order to model it for my daughter (though clearly she gets the concept if she’s ready to tell others to be patient).  I know the first thing is making sure I leave time to get ready before we leave.  I once read you have to leave 15 minutes per person (including you), so if you have to get 3 kids ready plus yourself, you need to start getting ready an hour ahead of time.  It seemed ridiculous, but I’ve found it to be pretty spot on with young kids.  For me and my daughter, we definitely need 30 minutes if we don’t need to clean anything up before “getting ready”.

I also realized that some of my own issues stem from me wanting to be on some arbitrary schedule, not actual time limits that we need to abide by.  For example, do I need to be grocery shopping at 2pm?  Not particularly.  However, I do need to get my daughter to forest school for 1pm.  As such, I need to differentiate to myself and to my daughter when things are non-negotiable and when they are.

Sometimes I think we underestimate how much they understand, but I’ve found even talking to my daughter about the “must” times really helps her cooperate in terms of getting ready.  Then when it’s not a “must” time, I find I’m better able to cooperate by giving her some more time to play (or do whatever she’s doing) before we start getting ready to head out the door.  Picking the battles, so to speak.

Am I perfect?  Absolutely not.  Is she?  Nope.  However, I do hope that with this renewed focus on patience for both of us we can learn to cooperate and work together more often than not.

Image copyright Moyan Brenn

By Tracy Cassels

May 04, 2015