Patience is the quality of self-restraint. It is our ability to hold back, remain composed, and calm. Patience is also the expression of perseverance, endurance, and determination. Carry on. Move forward. And all the while, remain even keeled.
Patience is a trait that permeates motherhood, but I’m not sure that it’s an absolute. You don’t have it or not have it. It comes. It goes. Patience is a consistent test throughout our mothering days. In moments of overwhelm and frustration, patience wears thin. Like when you’ve repeatedly asked your seven-year old to clean up his toys, walked away trusting he can follow through on his own, and he’s hasn’t. Or when you’ve created a schedule to get all your children out the door on time, and they are not cooperating. You are off schedule and …. late.
In moments of impatience, you lose it. You yell. You might even do more that you later regret. The negative self-talk that follows may rip you to shreds. “There I go again. I lost it. I told myself I wouldn’t do that. If they would only…” You spend a lot of time looking at your “should haves” and your “want to’s”. It’s easy to do. There is always room to improve. You feel badly, literally feel badly, after losing it.
Most mothers have the notion of self-criticism down. We’re good at it. The question is – do we use it to beat ourselves up? Or do we use it to help us continue to grow? Do we remind ourselves or reminisce about all the moments of stellar patience we have exhibited during prior days? How about the months of potty training? Sitting with our slow eater while she finishes dinner? Or waiting out a sibling conflict so it can be resolved without your participation?
Patience is fluid, and sometimes we “have it” and sometimes we “don’t”. Today’s lifestyle encourages us to get things done fast, to respond immediately, and to hurry on to the next thing. We don’t have the patience for patience. Nor do we have the time. Today, we must work on patience.
Our work pays off during those out of control moments. Patience permits us to refrain from our own unhelpful reactions – like screaming. A toddler in the midst of a tantrum remains just that – a toddler in the midst of a tantrum. The seventh time we ask our son to clear the table feels like the first. The repetitive bouncing ball whose sounds were like screeching nails on a chalkboard is now a symphony in your ears.
Well, maybe not exactly. But patience becomes a tool to be used to maneuver through those chaotic situations. Patience reminds us that we children, and children take time. Patience helps to define that which is beneficial in a moment and that which is not. Our goals stay clear and our expectations realistic when patience is involved.
Patience is something to be nurtured and cultivated. It is a practice, and one that moms must practice daily. Accept the ebbs and flows of your own patience, but commit to it and grow it.