Thursday, September 10, 2009

Learning Patience from a Child - Fruit of the Spirit Part Four

There is an old joke that says you should never pray for patience because all you'll get is trouble. It is true that it's a scary request, "God give me patience..." Doesn't that mean you're asking Him to help you wait even longer?

I am not a patient person. Nine times out of ten I just want to get "it" done, whatever "it" may be: lunches made, bath time over, laundry put away, attitude adjusted, request met. Did God know this character quality in me needed work when He gave me a child who needs to hear multiple times that Daddy isn't home yet when she can see for herself that he isn't? Or perhaps, be told five times to put her seat belt on while I load up her siblings, the stroller, her school supplies, etc. I am learning to say it calmly still on the fifth time, or to be more proactive in supporting her through these events (and countless others) before I lose it. I am still human, however, and am prone to fail in this area, particularly when all of the children seem to gang up on me and stop listening. The babies do this because they are still little. Twenty months means just a little more impulse control than eighteen months. The child does this because she is still learning to check her impulse control and stay in a regulated state where it seems like a good idea to listen. How do I check my impulses when they aren't checking theirs? Someone has to be the grown up, and it would appear to be me.

I can grow in this area through my relationship with my child. First, as I mentioned above, God is using my daughter to stretch my patience quota. A year ago I would not have tolerated all the repetition, the disregulation, and the monotony of minutiae that she needs to know. Now I am seeing all of those things from a new perspective that helps me stay calm much more of the time. Secondly, I can learn by watching my daughter. Although she can be quite flighty and distractible, nothing can deter her from achieving a goal that she has set her mind on. For example, it is normally quite challenging for her to "stay in the lines" on a coloring page, but a few weeks ago she did just that because she wanted to do a good job making a thank you picture for a friend of ours. She spent the better part of an hour painstakingly maintaining her fine motor skills to finish that picture. When I know it will be hard for me to do something I sometimes give up before I even start, but she patiently applied herself to the task she had set for herself and I was humbled by her perseverance. Lastly, I can learn patience by trying to see things from her perspective. I imagine there are times when she gets just as frustrated with me, and while she often lets me know it, there are other times when she just repeats what she has already said hoping that it will eventually sink into my thick skull. I can sometimes see the gears of her mind turning, "Why doesn't Mom get this? I've explained it so many times..." and then she says it again.

I close with a children's song that I learned when I was a child...if only I could learn to apply it as easily as I learned to sing it!

Have patience.
Have patience.
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get,
you only start to worry.
that God is patient, too,
and think of all the times,
when others have to wait for you.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Ah yes... "The Music Machine". Good stuff - V and I sing that one to the girls some, but most often it's the "Good Morning" song.


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