You Need to Learn Patience

Dear Eldest,

You’re five and a half and you really need to learn patience. You often expect me to listen to you RIGHT NOW when your sister needs a diaper change, when your brother is crying, or when your grandfather is telling me about his day at work.

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. I “wait-a-minut-ed” you while Grampa finished telling a story. It was a longer story than I thought it would be, and I became very conscious of the minutes as they ticked on by.

It was not a minute. Just as “wait a second” is never a second.By the time the story had ended, you had forgotten what you wanted to tell me. I had wasted your patience and taught you that if you wanted to be heard you should interrupt often until I give up and turn to you in exasperation. “WHAT?”

I realized today that I’m not teaching you patience, I’m wasting what patience you have on things that patience need not be wasted on.

Yes. You do need to learn not to interrupt. The world will never revolve around you. Certainly not when you have two siblings that also need attention and that sometimes have more critical needs than yours.

However, learning is done best when the process is gradual, demonstrative and when it teaches valuable life skills. Not “I will drop you into this situation and expect you to automatically become patient.

Yes. Sometimes I don’t have the time at that moment to listen to fourteen of your newest knock knock jokes. And sometimes I really need to finish a phone call before the person on the other end hangs up on me for being non-responsive.

People tend to repeat what they experience. And I remember many long “just a minute” moments when I brimmed over with frustration that I was being ignored for a very simple thing that I needed to convey to my mother when she was on the phone. “We’re out of toilet paper. Can you get some down from the cabinet?”

I’ve been fumbling my way through the years trying to find some sort of a balance with you where I pay attention to you when you need it and where I’m allowed to finish things that need to be finished when they need to be finished. I allow you to freely interrupt anything I’m doing on the computer, any text messages, picture-taking, book reading. With conversations I’ve struggled to find a balance. Struggling brings frustration. So I’ve been frustrated with you when you did not deserve frustration.

Today I realized that you simply don’t know how to prioritize the task that I have at hand and the thing that you need to tell me. These things are not learned by osmosis. These things are taught. Every time I “wait a minute” you, I’m squandering a valuable learning moment.

Parents are not perfect. We learn as we go.

I’m going to try something new. I’m going to do a quick triage of what it is that you need to tell me. What is it about? Let me write it down for you so that we both remember, because it’s definitely important for me to hear.. But Grampa is trying to tell me something or this phone call needs to be finished and then I’ll have all the time we need to talk about that.

That way, if you need toilet paper- you get it. If you want to tell me a knock knock joke, you wait. If you need to tell me that your little brother just fell in the toilet while he was trying to poop and Grandma is not able to stop laughing long enough to unstick his chubby toddler butt from the toilet.. I’ll agree that is a time critical emergency that merits my pausing only to grab a camera.

When you are older I will encourage you to “remember a word” or to tell me when something is REALLY important. That’s a later step, though. I can’t jump ahead. It breaks the rules of learning and sets us both up for a LOT of frustration.

I can teach you patience without teaching you that you lack in importance. I can teach you patience while helping you learn about priorities. I can teach you patience without half of the things that you want to tell me being forgotten in the process. I can make it more gentle, more rewarding.

And so I shall.

<3 Mama


2 thoughts on “You Need to Learn Patience

  1. This makes so much sense, it’ll be a while before I need this, as my little boy is only 4 months old, but i’ll certainly use it when he’s old enough!

  2. I love this idea. I struggle with this with my nearly 4 year old. Too early to write though, but I realised lately that I spend the day ‘just a minute’ing him. Poor child.

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