On our recent trip to the East Coast, I impressed my big brother with my patience. This, as any tempestuous younger sibling who threw things at an older sibling’s head knows, is a pretty big deal. In our sibling relationship, it’s a milestone that’s almost as big as the time I learned to blow a bubble out of gum before he did, the only thing I can remember doing first.
He’s never thought of my as patient before – I don’t think I’ve thought of myself that way, either. I’m not so good at that part of the meal after everyone’s finished eating, where you just sit and chat and I think about how long, exactly, I have to sit until it’s OK to get up and clear the table. But apparently, I’ve aquired patience since having children.
Funny, because one of my daily motherhood prayers is for more patience. More patience, longer naps for everyone, the return of my waist, and a photographic memory that’ll let me pull up every hug and funny saying 45 years from now.
Jonas had a bad few days – he chanted no-no-no to everything from Cheerios to cheese, threw himself on the floor, chucked Legos at his extended family, and smacked me in the face. He’s a hit-and-hug tantrumer, who first screams about the inhumanity of it all before clocking me (or his brother or a piece of unlucky furniture), and then collapsing into my arms. It felt like 36 straight hours of sobbing. There was no illness that we could find (other than the earlier in the week motion sickness); just regular old almost-two-year-old terrors.
Through it all, I didn’t yell at him. Not because I didn’t want to – four-letter words filled my head, and I have been known to go into the bathroom mid-tantrum and make mean faces at the mirror - but because it won’t accomplish anything.
Yelling at a yelling child makes the child yell more, and feeds into an eternal spiral of drama. And more drama is the last thing any parent of a toddler does needs, right after easily accessible power tools and butcher knives. So, I try to stick with deep breaths and internal expletives, and external calm. It’s a fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy.
I was a pretty dramatic and impatient kid – the sort who ran away from home and left notes that said, “I’m running away because you don’t love me. I’m going to the back yard. I will be back in time for dinner.”
(My thoughtful mother made sure to save that one and give it to me, knowing that grown-up-me would appreciate it. I also used to sit on the stairs, post-tantrum, with a blanket draped over my head, waiting for someone to rescue me. My kids tantrums just might be karma.)
But, apparently, as I reminded myself during the most recent tantrum tornado that blew through our house, even mini drama queens (and kings) can grow up to have a little patience. And to blow enormous bubbles out of BubbleYum.
Have you read this essay? This is a lovely mother of adult children’s use of patience – holding your tongue, waiting for them to come to you. I hope I can be this same way when my boys are grown – and that they’ll take me on a cross-country trip by train.