Family Practice: PatienceWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | email@example.com
I have to tell you, Guns N’ Roses, you’re really letting me down. All of your smooth talk about how “all we need is just a little patience” seemed so sensible and simple back in 1988. I’m now guessing none of you had three small children when you addressed the topic with such uncomplicated certainty. After producing three small children of my own, I have to admit that I often have a hard time connecting with my inner patience.
I used to be quite good at it. In fact, while working as a cashier one night in college, a couple came through my line wishing to purchase a large amount of something or other. For a reason I can’t recall, scanning the item once and simply indicating how many was not an option. So, I proceeded to scan close to a hundred tiny items with hard to straighten bar codes one by one.
The couple stood in apparent amazement as I swiped calmly, without even a drop of annoyance, for several minutes. As I finished the tedious task as happily as I had started, the couple felt compelled to inform me, “You have the patience of Job.” I was flattered, but little did I know that, also like Job, my patience would one day be tested again and again.
And again and again. And again and again.
And again and again.
Parenting seems to be roughly 85 percent patience testing. I’m not sure of its exact origin, but I would wager money that the phrase “you’re testing my patience” was first uttered by a parent waiting for a child to put on shoes after being told a dozen times or so. The funny thing is that I remember being a kid and having my parents slowly become infuriated over such a thing as shoes not being put on and wondering what the big deal was. Now, having become the butt of the “I’m not putting my shoes on” joke, I no longer get it.
I said, “Put your shoes on.” You know how to put your shoes on. Yet, somehow, your shoes remain off. What possible logical reason Could There Be For You NOT HAVING YOUR SHOES ON?!
It’s not just direct disobedience that tests parental patience; it can be something as seemingly enjoyable as situational irony. In keeping with the shoe theme, I have a 7-year-old who still struggles to learn shoe-tying and a 4-year-old who won’t stop tying into knots anything that resembles a rope.
So, let me get this straight: a 7-year-old, who conceivably should be able to tie his shoes like an old pro by now, still can’t fully tie them, while his 4-year-old sister, who could easily pass for someone not yet ready to learn the art of tying, insists on tying anything and everything within reach? Back in my carefree, Job-like days, I might have found the irony of such a scenario quite funny and cute. However, living in my current days, which are filled with many fruitless hours of nicely requesting that seatbelts be put on, teeth be brushed and children get dressed, such humor and irony are completely lost on me.
There was a day when I imagined that having children would open up a whole new realm of my personal patience. After all, taking care of other people’s children had guided me from my self-centered teenage years into a more mature, tolerant and patient phase in which I learned to better appreciate the time it takes to learn the little things in life through a child’s eyes.
It’s remarkable how much easier it is to be patient when you’re getting paid, have few other responsibilities in life and only have the children for eight to 10 hours a day with weekends off. I think a fellow former nanny I know put it best when she relayed a little story about her transition from just being someone’s babysitter to being someone’s mom. She told me that she would walk the floor of her bedroom with her own screaming newborn in the middle of the night desperately wondering, “When is this kid’s mom coming home?”
I also sometimes wonder, “When is this kid’s mom coming home?” Surely I couldn’t be the mom. Moms are supposed to revel in hearing “Mommy” 87 times a day. Women pine for years, waiting for a sweet little voice to address them by one of the most beautiful words ever uttered, so why am I huddled in my laundry room with the door closed, fingertips on my temples, hoping that I get at least a five-minute reprieve before I hear it again?
Maybe Axl Rose really was onto something. Maybe I just need to put on a headband, roll up my sleeves, sway contentedly and whistle more. Such vices sound much better than the teeth clenching and eye rolling plan I’m currently utilizing. Renewed patience, here I come.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Family Practice