Parenting small children tends to shine a light on our rough edges. Flaws we never saw before, or used to successfully cover up, become exposed, raw and raging at a time when we are desperately trying to be our best for the sake of our children. One of the flaws my children exposed is my lack of patience.
Before I had kids, I would have described myself as a patient person. I rarely lost my tempter and never yelled. Now patience is one of my top prayer requests. An elusive trait that I once felt lay firmly in my hand.
I often lose my patience when I feel overwhelmed. Then "bad" mommy comes out. Unfortunately, "bad" mommy is loud, demanding and not much fun. Shame and embarrassment typically follow these episodes. It is not a good cycle for mom or the kids. The only redeeming factor is that it offers an opportunity to practice humility and model the quest for forgiveness.
With this cycle of behavior firmly planted in my mind, I am on the lookout for practical ideas and inspiration for increasing my patience. One that has been very helpful lately is a quote Elizabeth George's book A Woman's Walk with God. She wrote:
The definition of patience I use for myself is: Patience does nothing. Patience is the front end of these three fruits which relate to people - patience, goodness, and kindness - and it is the passive part of love: It is love doing nothing....
Doing nothing gives you and me time (even a second!) to do something - to pray, to reflect, and to plan to respond in a righteous manner. (1)For my own purposes, I have taken the liberty to sum up Elizabeth's George's words even more succinctly.
Patience equals pause.
I think the reason that this quote and idea have stuck with me for so long is that they make the act of patience simple. I don't have to feel calm. I don't have to smile and be happy in the midst of the chaos. I just need to stop.
For me, stopping typically looks like physically holding still and purposing keeping my mouth shut. However, last week I had to physically leave the room. Pausing can look like a number of things:
- Deep breaths
- Counting to ten
- Closing your eyes
Whatever gives you a moment to let the anger and frustrations dissipate. This gives space for other pieces of parenting knowledge can come to mind, making it is easier to act with wisdom and control.
I encourage you to make "patience equals pause" your parenting mantra this week. Post it on your mirror. Tape it to your fridge. Write it on your wrist if need be. Embed the words in your heart so they are with you whenever you need a little more patience.
What techniques do you use to increase your patience?
(1) Elizabeth, George, A Woman's Walk with God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2000), 92.
Kristen is a wife and mother who likes to pretend that she can cook, write and create. She is a little compulsive when it comes to cleaning and organizing and has an ever growing love of dark chocolate, tea and Jane Austen. But mostly, she is a woman trying to figure out how to live a life she can be proud of.