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Patience: A well-honed tool

April 20, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
If I had to prioritize the tools in my mothering tool box, I would put patience at the top.

From the first few minutes of your child's life, when you are elated yet exhausted, and you're racking your brain to recall the breastfeeding class that explained exactly how to maneuver that tiny mouth onto your breast ... you need patience.

In those first few weeks, when you've already been up five times during the night for feedings and you've just drifted off to sleep again when you hear that tell-tale cry again ... you need patience.

In the first few months, when you have peek-a-booed and made noises you thought you'd never make and tickled little toesies to no end, and you still have yet to glimpse that honest-to-goodness first smile ... you need patience.

In the first year, when you wait with bated breath for the first roll over, the first scoot, the first hands-and-knees rock session, the first crawl, the first pull-up and the ultimate first step ... you need patience.

In the second year, when your walking and talking child realizes she is not physically attached to you and has a mind of her own, and you hear the word "No" from your child about as much as you utter it yourself ... you need patience.

In the third year, when you really think it's about time your child start sharing; stop biting, hitting and pushing; and have all his letters and numbers down pat ... you need patience. (Remember: He's only 2!)

In the fourth year, when she's still throwing things and screaming at you when she's angry, and you are so tempted to display the same behavior ... you need patience — lots of it.

In the fifth year, when preschool starts and you really want your child to dress himself because he is more than capable -- but you are rushing to get out the door on time ... you need patience. Some things are more important than the clock.

My daughter's sixth year has just begun, and I am finding I need a different kind of patience ... an easier kind, actually. When she sings the same original song repeatedly for the entire car ride from school to home ... I need patience. When she wants to play the same board game four, five and six times in a row ... I need patience. When she seemingly wants my undivided attention every minute we are together ... I need patience.

I feel blessed to have this vibrant, imaginative youngster to brighten my days with her beautiful songs and regale me with tales about wild animals and princess ponies and all sorts of made-up characters. Is it so bad that I zone out at times during these sometimes lengthy sagas?

I know as the years go by, other forms of patience will be required. I will have to learn to be patient with Emma's teachers, her coaches, her friends and her friends' parents. I will need to be patient with myself and my husband as we evolve as parents and adapt to each new stage of Emma's development. And Lord knows, I will need heaps of patience when Emma is a young teenager.

I have found the old stand-by of counting to 10 to be one of the best ways to tap my inner fount of patience. Breathing deeply is another go-to. In fact, when my daughter sees my dander rising, she will pat my arm and say in her most calm and "parental" voice (even if she's the one who has caused my frustration), "It's OK, Mom. Count to 10. Take deep breaths. It's OK."

Praying for patience helps sometimes, but be careful what you ask for — Sometimes when you pray for patience, you end up facing an unexpected situation that tests it! Like many tools, patience has to be used to be kept in tip-top shape, and it needs to be constantly honed. Perhaps that's why we are given so many opportunities to employ it!


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