Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The Patient Parent
Patience is a virtue and it is something that as parents we eagerly desire but find so hard to put into practice. How many times as a parent have you asked the Lord to give you patience to deal with a particular circumstance or simply just to get through your busy day? I have on countless occasions and the prayer goes something like this 'God grant me patience, I need it and I need it now!' Do you see the irony in that plea? 'I need it now' when patience is all about waiting! We live in such a time when many things are granted to us instantly. We no longer have to wait for the letter to come in the mail - messages are sent with a click of a mouse or the flick of a finger across a screen. Communication is fast and our food is too. We get used to it and the wait at a traditional restaurant where they cook your food from scratch with fresh ingredients can seem extraordinarily long! We have also come to expect service to be fast and efficient and it is fair to say that most people do not like waiting in queues and the sight of a packed waiting room at the doctor's surgery is not a welcome sight.
I really want to be a patient parent and want to teach my children to be patient too, so when they are faced with delays in life and when circumstances are out of their control they can deal with the situation with grace and treat the people around them in a dignified manner. There were thousands of people stranded in airports all over the world last weekend when Qantas grounded all of its planes due to an industrial dispute. I would have loved to have taken a survey and asked affected parents how they coped. Did they remain calm in front of their children and just accept the situation, keeping a lid on their warranted frustration or did they take it out on others?
I've realized that God doesn't give out injections of patience rather He takes us to places and puts people and circumstances across our path which call for patience. It is the testing of our faith that produces patience. Sometimes those situations may seem unbearable and be real times of testing but often it is hardest to be patient in the everyday. I'm talking about toilet training a toddler, standing in long queues at the grocery store, being put on hold by the telephone company and the one that has tested my patience to the limit - teaching a teenage boy to drive!
I would love to share with you some of the lessons I have learned about patience. I am no expert, I can easily lose patience but I am far more accepting these days of stressful situations and I understand that life does not always run smoothly and everything does not always go my way no matter how prepared or organized I am! Cars break down, we lose our Internet connection, children break bones, old ladies still count out coins at the checkout and planes get delayed. It's how we cope in the situation itself that will test and refine our character - the Bible says we are to count it all joy when we experience trials. You mean we are meant to enjoy these times? Sounds crazy doesn't it? One of the situations I dreaded most was a long haul flight with a 15 month old baby followed by a 14 hour stopover in an airport - on my own, no husband or family member there to help. Do you know that turned into one of my most favourite experiences of motherhood when I bonded with that boy in such a way that today we still have a very special relationship. I count that trip which was to attend the funeral of my father as 'all joy'. The Lord comforted me in a time of sorrow and provided on the job training in patience in an airport terminal!
Here are some more of my on the job experiences and some of the strategies that have helped me be a more patient person and parent. There is no pattern here - they are all quite different places but if you have a family you probably will find yourself in these very same places or encountering similar situations.
Patience in the Home
1. Toilet training. The lesson I learned is simple and it's all about patience WAIT! Wait until your toddler is ready, especially if he is a boy. I have twin girls who were a breeze to train, in just over a week. They hadn't even turned two. I have a boy now and he is not at all interested so I will wait. I have learned to be patient with my little boys and know that he will get there and having him out of nappies before the age of two is not a measure of my success as a parent!
2. Teaching a child to read. If you are a homeschooling parent you will know that teaching reading takes a tonne of patience! I intend to write a blog post about my experiences in teaching my children to read but suffice it to say for now, that when I first started out I was so impatient. As I learned more about the different styles of learning and realized that children learn at different rates, I became less anxious. I put away the regimented grade level scope and sequence I had been referring to and gave each child the time that they needed. With the pressure taken off, teaching reading became a much more enjoyable process and the Lord used it to make me a much more patient person!
3. During home renovations - oh I could devote a whole post to this subject too! I will take you on a tour of our home sometime and show you what we have achieved in the years we have lived in this home. It is still not finished. It was a house that needed lots of work on a property that requires lots of maintenance. Much patience was required and still is. We did not employ builders and the work that was needed was undertaken when we were able to afford it. There are days when I want to live in a new house at the beach with no work to do and time to go for long walks but then I would be in town with neighbours and parties and barking dogs and no chickens - just the thought of life without chickens takes away the appeal of beachside living! My children say they would love to live at the beach but I'm sure they would miss the chickens and soon become tired of chasing seagulls that don't give you eggs and invade your picnics! And instead of sweeping dirt out of my house it would be sand!
4. When establishing a garden that will feed your family. It takes hard work and time to establish a garden that also includes an orchard. In the Bible it says 'See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.' (James 5.7) We are still waiting to see all the fruit of our labours. It will be several years before some of our trees begin to crop - you cannot make it happen, you just have to weed, mulch, water, prune and wait! Patience is also needed when you face setbacks. The critters that eat all your new seedlings, the neighbours cows that break through a fence and trample your garden. I'm learning to accept that setbacks are inevitable when you garden or farm. I have to live with those pesky possums and find ways of keeping them out of the vegetable garden!
In the Community
There are so many places and situations we will face when we are out and about where patience is required and needs to be put into practice. It is more likely that we are encountering people and we need to be careful about how we behave, especially if our children are there with us. How we treat others and speak to them is probably how they will treat others too.
1 At the grocery store, post office, bank - any place which gets busy where you find you have to queue and wait in line to be served but it is at the hardware store where I find my patience sorely tested where it is often hard to find what you are looking for and even harder to find someone to help you even though they wear bright red shirts! It's a place I would like to avoid but with ongoing renovations part and parcel of our life, trips to the hardware store are inevitable. The dreaded call from the husband when you are in town 'Can you just pop into Bunnings on your way home? I need a 40 mm connector for....' Doesn't he know that you just don't pop into Bunnings! He is sending me on mission impossible to the aisles that induce the most stress - the plumbing section which is stacked to the ceiling with pipes and connectors but guess what they are out of stock of the one that you are looking for!
3. In traffic and when driving. I'm not sure how I would cope in the big city where traffic jams are part of the norm but waiting in traffic to cross a busy intersection or being stranded on the side of the road when your car breaks down are just some of the ways in which our patience can be tested. You will also require patience when you travel narrow country roads and get stuck behind a camper van or truck! If only we could be like the dog on the back of this utility and just sit back and enjoy the journey! The road is probably one of the places where you are most likely to encounter impatient people. If you have ever been tailgated by a truck or been the victim of road rage you will know what I mean. Having a learner driver in the family just adds to the stress of being out on the road. Here in this state of Australia learner drivers have to complete 120 hours of driving practice before they can sit their test. Each time the L plates are attached to the van which is on almost every trip I take to town, I know I am about to be trained in patience!
4. Airports - I don't travel often but flying whether that be interstate or internationally can be a real test of patience. Each time I have traveled by air I have experienced delays of one kind or another. The hardest to endure was on a plane that had technical issues that was not allowed to take off. It just happened to be in 40 degree heat in Bangkok on a plane with air conditioning that was not working!
5. Hospitals and emergency rooms. It may be called the emergency room but unless you arrive with a life threatening condition it is inevitable that you will find yourself waiting as people are put in order of priority to be seen. I was so thankful that my little girl was attended to promptly when she broke her arm recently but we arrived on a quiet night. The waiting room was empty! Last week we returned to the fracture clinic. It was there that I was taught some important lessons about patience and cheerfully enduring long and tedious waits by my very own children.
I'm going to save those lessons I have learned for another post about patience. I will let you know about the strategies that have helped me cope which turned situations that should have been stressful into incredible opportunities. God is here with us right here, right now. As you face laundry piles, as you teach that child to read or that teenager to drive. In the airport terminal and the hospital waiting room. The places where we are asked to live out our faith. Your daily trials and times of testing when you are prone to lose patience as a parent may seem insignificant but in God's eyes they are not. He is the God of the everyday - never forget that!