I was not born with patience, although before I had kids I thought I had plenty. I felt like a natural caretaker watching other people’s children, and I often strutted around like a smug, child-friendly professional. Getting the attention of fifteen 12-year-old girls at summer camp was nothing for me. I volunteered to lead eight 4-year-olds and boldly thought,
“Wow, this is easy! I could be a great mom! I’ll have 6 kids!”
What I failed to realize long ago was watching someone’s children is far different than having your own child with you 24 hours a day. Most of the time, being with my children is glorious. We love to take adventures to a local wildlife preserve and I often stare at them in awe of their curiosity and sincere passion for life.
There are other days, though, that I life to refer to as "ugly days". These are the days of defiance, testing, whining, hitting, tempers and complete unreason. When an ugly day happened with my first child, I would ask myself, “Why isn’t my child listening to me? What have I done wrong? Why can’t we just have one day without a meltdown?”
I would often answer myself with: “I need to read another parenting book.”
These parenting books would offer sane and wonderful advice but many times failed to address that the parent (me) was about to tear her hair out in utter frustration if little Raymond ran away from her in the mall again!
What I realized after 2 children was that most of the time, I was putting my daily agenda and unrealistic expectations upon my child.
Just as I am teaching my children about how to be patient, mama is learning to be patient as well. I know some kind of patience is rooted within me because I used to have a job as a customer service rep in a call center. People would often call me screaming and cussing me out and I impressed myself by removing my own emotions from the conversation and calming the situation down.
So, why can’t I apply that to my everyday life with my children?
Maybe because I don’t get to hang up the phone and step away from my desk for a moment to gather and reboot my patience. I instead have to hide in the bathroom, shed a few tears and muster up the strength to go back out into my family room and throw myself back into the parenting ring.
After 2 children, I have finally come to the conclusion-patience takes PRACTICE.
What a relief!
I must admit once I realized this patience stuff takes practice, a load was lifted off my shoulders.
I also realized I needed to...
Say goodbye to my agenda and stop being agitated with interruption.
-This was really hard for me at first. And, when you work from home, stepping away from your agenda means stepping away from work. The reason I stay home with my children is to be with my children. Therefore, much of my work is completed at night or on the weekends. If you have small children (working or not), once you stop forcing your agenda on everyone and move with moment, everything seems to be a little less crazy. (Most of the time.)
Set clear rules about how to calm down.
-This is not meant to be harsh and you must find an effective way for you to calm down when the pressure is on. It could be breathing, counting, stepping away from the chaos and going into a quiet room, meditating on something positive. I like this tactic to be something you can do anywhere. For example: when you are at school or work, you may not be able to step out and go into a quiet room. You can breathe and count no matter where you are!
Recognize what sets you off.
-Do you get overwhelmed easily? Does too much noise make you nauseous? When you are a parent, overwhelming and loud situations are inevitable. It’s how you respond to your situation that makes or breaks you.
A great example: The TV is on playing the first scene of "The Lion King", the XM radio is set to your favorite station, the washing machine is running, the dog is barking at a squirrel.
The kids are not watching the TV but running wildly around the coffee table screaming. You are just about to finish loading the dishwasher when BAM! Someone’s head bounces off the floor. Tears ensue and you abandon the dishes to hold your child. Through the loud call of elephants and lions roaring to the “Circle of Life” you try to comfort one child while explaining to the other child why they shouldn’t run around the table.
Maybe this doesn’t sound so chaotic to some, but when you get overwhelmed easily, this senario is enough to positively or negatively set the pace for an entire day.
What should you do? Turn off the TV. Announce it’s time for “quiet time”, a lovely phrase I use when all hell breaks looks and we need to calm down. Everything is shut off (including my radio and computer) and we select something quiet to do.
Quiet things include:
-Playing a Quiet Game
Once I declare “quiet time”, we all know it’s time to calm things down. After doing this consistently, we now have quiet times during the day for fun. And, my 5-year-old recognizes it as a positive thing and asks for quiet time when he has had too much from his day.
It's only temporary!
-I frequently hear life after the age of 7 gets so much better in regards to being an exhausted parent. Your child can dress themselves, make meals on their own, they clearly know the rules, and really embrace their independence. I guess this is when you become emotionally exhausted?
I am a novice when it comes to anything over the age of 5, so what comes next?
Attitudes? Problems with friends?
At this point, I am looking forward to everyone sleeping through the night and using the bathroom on their own. To conquer these menial tasks alone would mean success!
What calms you down when things get messy?
Are you naturally patient?
For the parents who have their small children in day care, is it easier to be patient with your kids because you are apart from them during the day? Or, are you so exhausted from work (and losing your patience with adults) by the time dinner and bedtime rolls around you are ready to throw in the towel?