Thursday, October 21, 2004

So Where Can One Buy Patience, Anyway?

I am a somewhat impatient person.

No, wait, let me qualify that. In certain circumstances, I am a somewhat impatient person. In others, I am a paragon of patience.

At work, for instance. I've been doing my job for a long time and have acquired enough experience and perspective that not too many things topple me from my equipoise perch.

In the parenting milieu, patience for me can be a terribly finite resource. Again, though, not with everything. I have a high threshold for tantrums, for example. And spills and messes? Not a problem.

But say you are a two-year-old who likes to expend your excess energy by treating the sofa as your personal jungle gym. You hoist yourself up on the arm of the sofa and then dive onto pillows placed strategically along the cushions, yelling something like "AAAAAAAAOOOOhhhh!". Then you wriggle down among the pillows and bellow "I'm stuck! Help! Mommy! I'm stuck!" Then you laugh hysterically when your mother or father comes over and explains, calmly at first, that you cannot play the fall down game on the sofa, that you may get hurt. And then you repeat your little game until you are banished from the sofa. And you do this every single night.

This is strictly hypothetical, of course, but it's very similar to situations in which my patience snaps like a dry twig.

Or, to pluck another hypothetical situation out of thin air, say you are a one-year-old who never ever sits still. To you, getting dressed is an egregious violation of your civil rights, robbing you of time that could be much better spent pulling books off of shelves and crawling up the stairs. Even worse than getting dressed is having shoes put on your feet. Now, shoes are a delightful plaything---you've spent many joyous minutes carrying them around and placing them on and taking them off various pieces of furniture. But to have those shoes put on your feet? Torture.

By the time one shoe is more or less forced into place, you wriggle yourself out of arms reach and walk away, then protest loudly when chased after to resume the hateful activity. Repeat this process for the remaining three steps: tie shoe, put on next shoe, tie next shoe. Is there any wonder why your mother exhales loudly and proclaims "My God we haven't even tied the first shoe yet! If you could sit still for 30 seconds we'd be done by now!"

I'm working on the patience thing. I recognize my trigger points and try to maintain composure when I sense them approaching. I don’t want to turn into the shrill mom who yells a lot. I don't think I'm anywhere near that stage, but I do wish I could be Zen Mommy more often.