It’s bedtime. Pajamas are on, teeth are brushed, and it’s time for stories. My daughters reach for their newly discovered favorite, Where the Wild Things Are. Despite the bookshelf crammed with old classics and new reads, despite reading this last night and this morning and again at quiet time, they are ready for more Wild Things.
I resist the urge to insist on another story and settle in for another retelling of Max and his adventure. To the girls’ surprise (and even mine), I find myself changing my voice, growling a little for effect, and even tossing in some exciting sound effects. They giggle, and our regular story time is transformed.
Reflecting on this small moment from my motherhood journey helps me realize that I am developing more patience (though it’s not always easy to recognize that in the midst of frustrating moments). Of course mothering will always include small annoyances—such as reading the same bedtime story night after night—as well as bigger, teeth-gritting episodes—like apple juice on my keyboard or a dead car battery due to the interior lights left on. But somewhere between the early morning feedings and the endless toy room clean-ups, I’ve decided to find a way to enjoy these patience-promoting experiences, or at least most of them!
I have found that the key to doing this is merely adding a little creative energy to tasks that seem mundane, routine, or frustrating.
I have realized that by using a little creativity, the everyday patience that is required to endure challenges without getting frustrated is transformed into mothering patience—a patience that endures challenges, doesn’t get frustrated, AND shows optimism.
Everyday patience is calmly responding to our child’s repetitive requests day in and day out. Mothering patience is finding enthusiasm while wiggling the same loose tooth multiple times a day, asking sincere questions about the 23rd identical stick figure drawing, and joining in occasionally with the child who recently discovered the art of whistling… and practices morning to night.
Everyday patience is taking a deep breath and then another, while pooling bits of energy and motivation from reserves way down deep. Mothering patience is doing this (repeating as needed!) and turning on dance music.
Everyday patience is putting my favorite jeans and shirts aside to be worn after some good old fashioned exercise and healthy eating. Mothering patience is learning to love my body—yes, I said love—through many physical changes—pregnancy, postpartum, and post-postpartum.
Everyday patience is calmly discussing the issue and sticking to the consequence while a distraught daughter sobs her argument. Mothering patience is following the gut instinct to worry less about being “right” and instead asking questions that probe a little bit deeper into the situation and ultimately bring comfort and resolution.
Everyday patience is washing every single cup in the house (used by only two girls), folding kids’ clothing that continue to come out stained, sweeping up bits of dried play dough for three days after they played with it, and gently combing snarls out of teary little girls’ hair morning and night. Mothering patience is doing these things over and over while telling stories, singing songs, and finding things to laugh about.
We have to choose to have mothering patience, which isn’t always easy. Here are two things that have helped me:
Learn to Laugh. When I look back to my early years as a mother, I didn’t give myself permission to laugh enough. I have learned that as I stop taking myself so seriously, I free up a lot more creativity.
I put this technique into play recently during our infamous toy room cleanup. I traded my usual nagging plea to help for a British accent and a sing song voice. My girls were thrilled and the room was clean faster than you can say “spoonful of sugar.”
See the Big Picture. Behind the feisty tempers and toothpaste smeared in the carpet, I remind myself that there is much more to our lives than the momentary battles of the day. When I choose to focus only in the here and now, I limit my perception and find myself “hanging in there,” most likely with gritted teeth and clenched fists.
On the other hand, when I see my children in the big picture, my mothering patience truly shines and I find insights into their personalities and ideas for helping them specifically.
Sometimes everyday patience is all we can muster, and that is enough in a difficult moment. But by learning to laugh and stepping back to see the big picture, we will discover greater happiness in motherhood. We will be choosing more perspective and creativity. We will be choosing mothering patience.
QUESTION: What have you learned about mothering patience as you raise your children? How has it made a difference in your relationship with your children?
CHALLENGE: Find a way that works for you to develop your mothering patience, whether it be laughing more, taking a step back to see the big picture, adding some creativity into your parenting, or whatever suits you best.
Image Source: Microsoft Office Images
Oh I really enjoyed reading this wonderful post! Wise words which I really needed to read today :0) “Seeing the big picture” and learning to laugh at the craziness of life have helped me sooo much as a mother too. One of the best compliments I ever received was someone that said I was “so laid back.” Oh if she only knew what a worrier I can be!
To answer the question above: I think striving to be a more patient mother has helped my children and I to be more kind and loving with each other for sure. I’ve always wanted to treat them with great respect as they are children of God (of course I fall short and make mistakes more than I’d like to admit :0), but I’ve found that by interacting with them with gentleness, kindness and patience, they are in turn, learning the value and importance of treating me, my husband, and others with this same love and respect.
I’ve actually been studying a lot about patience lately, and I loved reading these thoughts! Last night I wrote up some of my discoveries. ( http://biffandrosie.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-few-thoughts-on-patience.html ) anyway, I’m realizing patience isn’t the familiar simultaneous feeling of annoyance and guilt; it’s discovering you possess the ability to release yourself from the frustrations that surround you.
That’s my favourite bit:
“Everyday patience is calmly discussing the issue and sticking to the consequence while a distraught daughter sobs her argument. Mothering patience is following the gut instinct to worry less about being “right” and instead asking questions that probe a little bit deeper into the situation and ultimately bring comfort and resolution.”
We hear so much about importance of consequences and being consistent that it can really go overboard sometimes, into being numb and stuck. We need to model compassion and kindness as much as sticking to consequences 🙂
Loved the article.
Andrea Davis says
I love your idea that mother patience is a choice. I believe it is…and it’s one I have to make many times throughout the day. Thanks for the great reminder!
I love these articles that are posted! But, it seems like all the ones like this that are offering ideas and helps for us moms are all about parents with easy kids. I have 5 difficult kids. My friends all have several difficult kids. I really need encouragement and ideas on how to be patient with an adopted son who suffers terribly from PTSD and just won’t sleep Imin his own bed because we live next to an army artillary field. Or the little 3 year old who is as smart as a whip and tho is she can do it ALL and all by herself and screams when she can’t or when you offer help. Or the soon to be teenager who defiantly doesn’t want to participate in scripture time and would prefer to argue every moral or spiritual point you’re trying to teach the rest of family, or how to have patients with the son who is such an amazing and sweet kid but who is having a hard time controlling his anger because he’s struggling with his Army dad being away.
I am surrounded by friends and neighbors who are all struggling with these same issues. We love power of moms but it seems like nothing applies to us.
Totally! I get it- I wrote this 5 years ago and have since added more children and more challenges. These principles certainly apply- but sometimes we do have to dig deeper and do more than we ever thought necessary. There are seasons when we have to dedicate all hearts and minds to the success of one child in particular, and then shift focus to other areas, while still trying to maintain love and concern for everyone. These are just general ideas- but you will know the most- as their mom- as what you can do and what areas to search out. I LOVE the principles taught in Parenting with Love by Latham. Hard to implement sometimes, but really these things haven’t failed me, even as we have reached situations that I didn’t dream of. Some times books aren’t enough- you may need to reach out to other resources to get what your kids need. I am learning more than ever though- that being in control of ‘me’ is the best thing I can give to my kids. I can’t control them, their choices, or the outcome, but I can control how I handle things and how I respond and treat them…over and over and over. 🙂 🙂 🙂