“The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
During our recent vacation, I experienced many opportunities to practice patience. We drove to the Bay area and back with a toddler, an energetic five year old and a young dog. (no, I don’t think we are crazy, but it reminds me why I usually plan single destination trips). So when strawberry yogurt spilled all over the cooler, and into the dog kennel, due to my sons exuberant bouncing around, or when water was spilled all over the floor at a fancy restaurant by my 20 month old daughter, or when there was a blizzard, and traffic was backed up for miles due to a jack-knifed semi, I had to choose- laugh about it, or cry, rant, and rave. Or when the kids begin whining and fussing, and we still had over an hour to go to get to our destination, or when my son and I got horribly car sick on the way to Garberville, (a town which does not provide public restrooms. You must purchase something from a business in order to use the bathroom, or head out of town to Toobey Park where there is a functional port-a-potty, and a nice playground). And again, me practicing patience during the next leg of the journey, when my son refused to take the medicine to reduce motion sickness because of the taste ( I swear, he used to love bubblegum flavored anything).
Many opportunities here for choosing patience. And many at home in our daily life. But how do sleep deprived, hungry, stretched thin, multi tasking moms make the best choice in the moment? On occasion I find myself launching into lecturing my five year old about this or that, realize that I have lost his attention and am completely frustrated and ineffective, then have to back up.
Here are a few ideas to put into action as you encounter your daily challenges!
-Say yes. Find opportunities to respond with “Yes, AND…” My son asks for ice cream after school and proceeds to have a fit when I say no. I could lecture in an exasperated manner about why we don’t eat ice cream before dinner, or how he should accept no for an answer. Or I could say “yes, that sounds fun, maybe on friday if we complete xyz” (a tradition we sometimes maintain) or “yes, that sounds good, lets pick some up next time we are at the store, what kind do you think you would like?” Find a way to say yes, while still holding your limits. Validate his idea, engage in an alternative plan.
-Use humor-find a way to laugh about it. When wrestling toddlers to get dressed, take a nap, stop feeding the dog their lunch, there is unavoidable comedy. Once you find it, you can share it with your child. My daughter has discovered the word “NO” and uses it for everything. It is comical when she is nursing and looks up and just says NO, or when I begin singing to her and she says NO. I have to laugh and appreciate her efforts to assert her will.
-Self sooth; practice a moment of silence, mindful breathing, or stretching. Observe yourself. Feel your neck muscles, let your shoulders relax, is this really worth getting fired up over? Get a breath of fresh air, step outside, picka flower; switch gears for a split second.
-Remember, this stage /age is temporary. Someday you will look back and wish your teenager was five again, begging you incessantly to play, read a book, or draw with them. Remind yourself of this as you feel your patience wearing thin.
-Get some perspective. I was bemoaning a sleepless night, asthma attack, taxes and my independent, limit, testing toddler, when a good friend begin telling me about her mother in law getting diagnosed with cancer, a friends child struggling with autism, and a co worker dying suddenly of an anuerysm. Wow. My life, my problems, my irritations paled in comparison. I was able to re-focus on the positive- asmtha is manageable, my toddler is super healthy, and developmentally on target, and I will survive taxes and sleepless nights. Instant reframe!
Now, practice any of these ideas in the moment when you feel your face getting hot, your blood pressure rising, or your voice raising as you try to reason with a small child about why he or she must find their shoes, eat breakfast, and get into the car now or mommy will be late for work.
Peace and patience!