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