Tell anyone who is not a teacher that you are, and they assume patience is one of your virtues. They’re not entirely wrong either. Maintaining composure in my classroom is easy, even when I’m asked the same questions a half dozen times in a row: How many paragraphs does this have to be? When is this due? Do we have to finish this for homework? Even if I have repeated myself ad nauseam, even if the answer is also posted on the whiteboard directly behind me (It is), and even if the reason I am being asked to echo myself again and again is due to the asker having been playing with a fidget spinner or checking their Snapchat, I never lose my cool.
I’d love to pretend I possess the same tolerance with my own children; unfortunately, my patience dwindles considerably when I change hats. Some days, it’s gone before 7:00 A.M.
Case in Point: One morning my youngest was brushing her hair when I asked if she’d like me to style it. She nodded. I proceeded to pull the top half up in a ponytail before securing the rest of the hair into a low bun. Minutes later, she’s sobbing.
“I wanted a bun!”
“You have a bun. Look, there’s a bun.”
“But I didn’t want that bun. I wanted a different bun!”
“Did you ask me for a bun?”
“No, but I wanted a bun!”
“YOU HAVE A BUN!”
Mornings can be tough though, so I try to forgive my children for their meltdowns, and I hope they forgive me mine. If patience has a kryptonite, it is fatigue. Some days, they are more tired than others. Some days, I’m more tired. But even on the most frustrating of mornings, I’m able to brush those feelings off when I step inside my classroom, leaving me to ponder why I can handle everyone’s children but my own.
Unflappable in the face of my students’ questions, my endurance is tested by the inane inquiries my little one tosses my direction.
“Mom, what does TNT stand for?”
“TNT…What does TNT stand for?”
“So they are crackers that are hot?”
“Mom? When are we going to buy popsicles?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think I want to be a bird so when people walk by I can poop on their heads. But not your head because you’ve already been pooped on. Right Mom?…Mom?…MOM?!?”
“When are we going to see the fireworks again?”
“I don’t know. Probably the fourth of July.”
“When is that?”
“THE FOURTH OF JULY.”
“Yeah, but what day is that?”
These are the moments when I know that I will be pouring myself a glass a wine with dinner to go with the glass of wine I poured myself before dinner.
Sometimes my inability to be a more patient parent leaves me feeling less-than. I convince myself that other moms are holding hands with their children, singing Kumbaya, and answering all their questions with a smile. But then I’m sitting at gymnastics when another mom snaps at her son after his fourth or fifth “mom” and I am reassured. She sounded just like me.
Like me, she just wanted these forty-five minutes to scroll through social media, to zone out, or to read a book without the constant pestering. Thank you, Real Mom of Gymnastics. We should be friends.
When parenting—especially parenting young children—patience can melt faster than a soft-serve ice cream cone at the beach. It’s perfectly normal to feel like there isn’t enough oxygen in this ecosystem for all the deep breaths you’ll need and it’s not wrong to want to give yourself a time out.
I once received text messages from a mom-friend who was hiding in her closet from her children and not because they were playing an awesome round of Hide-and-Go-Seek. I had to remind her that she wasn’t a terrible mother; she was wise to go in there (and wiser still to have brought an adult beverage with her). After all, what mom hasn’t gone to the bathroom and locked the door under the guise of needing to poo if only to get a five-minute reprieve? Sometimes the overstimulation of being poked and prodded and needed and questioned is too much. Nerves get exposed and every whine or cry feels like a root canal minus the Novocaine. If hiding in the closet means you regain your composure without losing it on your kids, more power to you.
After a long week, even Family Game Night requires me to tap into my depleted patience reserves. A few hands of Uno feels more like Chinese Water Torture. This one needs to get a snack, then that one needs something to drink, the dog scratches at the door to go out, then there is an attempt by a five-year-old at shuffling the deck. The dog scratches to come back in. The cup of water gets spilled. The nine-year-old is tap-tap-tapping her cards on the table, and I’m looking at my phone every five minutes to see if it is time for bed yet and cursing every Draw Four card that gets played.
Sometimes I think I could hang onto my sanity if only everyone would kindly just shut up. My youngest has been talking since she was born. You couldn’t quiet her unless there was a nipple in her mouth and we used that binky way longer than we should have. Still, I don’t enjoy feeling like the Grinch looking down on my little Who-Ville complaining about “the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!” I get why he freaked out though.
Dr. Ray Gaurendi, author of the book Back to the Family, says “Patience is an ideal to strive for. It is not a day-to-day reality.”
It’s certainly not my reality most days, but then there are those other days, the ones where I don’t just tolerate the clamor, I enjoy it; where the silly line of questions amazes me; where instead of hiding, I want to immerse myself in the chaos of these crazy kids, my crazy kids.
Let’s face it, if you are around your children enough to be irritated by them, you’re doing a good job. And if you lose your shit from time to time, remember to cut yourself a little slack, too. We can’t be Stepford Moms all the time. If patience is the ideal, I’ll keep on striving.