A Word: Patience
The truth is, we don't know patience until we need patience. My oldest son, Riley, 5 as I write this, is beginning to play video games. He thinks he loves them, really they frustrate him to no end. Invariably, he comes to a place in the game that he can't get past. He struggles and cries. He begins to beg for help. He is hyper stressed. I tell him to turn it off and walk away. That stresses him even more because he will loose his spot. His older cousin, Daniel, 10 as I write, can't take it. He knows that he could pass the part where Riley is stuck and the whining will stop. Riley is thrilled when Daniel agrees to 'help' him. In the moment it would appear that Daniel is offering patience to Riley as he passes him along to the next level. Any other parent out there know where this is headed?
There is momentary relief and rejoicing from Riley. The stressor is behind him! Until 2.5 seconds later when he is stuck yet again. See, he wasn't ready to compete in the level he is now in. Skills he should have acquired in the the previous levels are lacking. He is now in a place he wasn't meant to be. We have time limits on video games in our home. We also don't allow 'helping' someone get to the next level anymore.
If you asked someone what patience is, they would likely describe waiting out a frustrating situation without harming anyone. They may I think that those are both at times correct. When feelings of anger, discomfort, frustration, or anxiety, are not being allowed to dictate our reactions, we call that patience.
I would like to add another way to think of patience.
Patience is allowing.
Patience is allowing someone to chat with the cashier a little too long without clearing your throat. Patience can be allowing a child time for healthy struggle in a task without jumping in to get it done faster or better. It's uncomfortable.
Patience is allowing, by withholding your power to influence a situation. You hold back. You feel uncomfortable, but you lovingly allow. Patience is quelling the anxiety we feel in an uncomfortable situation and allowing it to continue without exerting our ability to influence it. I might warn my children of a possible consequence but, when reasonable, I stop short of forcing them to take my advice. 'Don't run where it's sandy. Slow down you may slip.' -It's usually not my voice, but the fall that slows them down. I don't feel comfortable in the moment but I try to patiently allow for low risk natural consequences.
We all want to 'feel' patience. I'm not sure we can. What we 'feel' is discomfort, anxiety, and frustration. What we 'choose' is to withhold our reaction based on those feelings. That's patience. We make an allowance for another person or circumstance despite what we feel. I would contend, if you 'feel' patience, you have no need of it.
Lack of patience can even look like kindness, like helping. Our child is attempting a new skill but the process is taking too long as they are learning. Although they need time to learn, we may gently and lovingly 'help' them get it done to hurry the process along. We don't have to look angry to be impatient. We can look sweet and gentle while not making an allowance for someone. At times, our child might be begging for help but rather than put our hands on the situation, we use our voice and presence to sit beside and speak encouragement. We can gauge whether it's a teachable moment or whether we should jump in and help. We might not always judge the circumstance correctly but we can be aware.
Could patience possibly be the ability to allow someone the time and space to experience their own problem with gentle attention but without reaching in to solve it? Could we quell the anxiety we feel at watching someone struggle in order to allow them a growth opportunity? We create scenarios where we are the hero of someone else's story. Patience allows someone the time to become the hero of their own story.
Patience feels uncomfortable because we want control outside of ourselves but true patience is controlling ourselves.
We all want to be more patient parents. We don't always know how to accomplish that. Ask yourself what allowances you can make for your children. If patience is what you are after, it's about controlling the struggle within yourself. It's taking your hands off.
Patience has been on my mind a lot lately. I so need it! Thoughts?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. I have talked about my faith on here before, so no shock, I am a Christian. As a reader of Toddle Spots we might not share the same faith. That's ok with me. I'm not writing to Christians specifically, I am writing to parents and anyone else in need of encouragement, we come from all walks.
I think you will understand my thoughts on patience a little more clearly if you understand my thoughts on God regarding this subject. These are just my thoughts. Please don't quote me as the voice of all Christianity here. Are we good? This is a glimpse into how I process some circumstances in my life. I process through the lens of my faith so it's hard for me to write about a topic like patience without mentioning my faith.
How do I reconcile in my mind when God doesn't seem to be coming through in my struggle? Sometimes. (Life is so complicated and doesn't boil down nicely into a single blog post, but)...Sometimes I believe that the Lord's patience with me looks like allowing. I pray for God to change or take my struggle and yet there it still is in my life. I want something to happen or change and it isn't. God can feel hands off to me at times. I believe God is love. I have learned that Love is patient. Patience allows. Allowing is for my ultimate good. When I'm allowed to walk through, I might be stronger and better prepared for what lies ahead. I come out the other side of a struggle more capable, because in His patience toward me, He...allowed.
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