The Art of Practicing Patience When You Basically Suck at It

If patience doesn’t exactly come naturally, let me offer you some footnotes so that we can all make it through to the other side together.

Patience is a skill that I don’t have.
I think remaining patient in the eye of the storm that is mothering four young daughters is my Achilles’s heel, my absolute downfall, the fail that I can count on just about every single day.
11 years ago I was gearing up to take on the only job that I was ever sure I would be cut out for: parenthood. Never did it cross my mind that I would lack the calm and the patience that it would take to get through each and every day.
Of course I would remain steadfast and strong in the midst of epic toddler tantrums.
Without a doubt I could manage the tween emotions and meltdowns that would hit me upside my head out of nowhere.
Sass and outright defiance would be child’s play for me.
I was an amazingly patient mother … before I had kids.
Now I find myself boiling over with irritation when all four kids start shouting high pitched demands at me all at once.
Yes you can have a fork. Don’t I always give you one?
Please just accept this pink cup, I have no freaking clue where the blue one is. Did we ever even have a blue cup?
Who colored on the walls … again!
I breathe through my nose while I step away into the darkness of the bathroom or the laundry room, desperately grasping at any shred of calm that I can conjure up. Without fail I blow … Every. Single. Time.
I yell, grit my teeth, and teeter on the verge of tears as I threaten the girls with early bedtime and no IPad. Anything to make the chaos freeze for just a minute, because if I could halt the insanity that is my life I might be able to find that elusive patience. It’s frustrating, this constant feeling of emotional upheaval and parental stress, especially because I used to be a master at patience. Having worked in special education for years I assumed that parenting my own children would be nothing compared to what I did for a living, but of course I was wrong, misguided, and naïve.
Teaching special needs was a cake walk compared to this circus.
So moving into the New Year, creating patience and peace in my parenting is the goal. Without it I have about a zero percent chance of getting four girls through the teen years. So, if you are like me and patience doesn’t exactly come naturally, let me offer you some footnotes so that we can all make it through to the other side together.

1 | Identify triggers and stay away from them

For me triggers are everyone screaming at once, clutter, and dinnertime. These are my kryptonite. Knowing that these triggers will send me right over the edge I have to start better preparing for them and devise a game plan.
Staggering morning wake ups will allow the kids to take turns whining at me for waffles, rather than all at once.
Having everything we need for dinner out on the table will hopefully stop the minions from constantly demanding things like milk and salt.
Clutter will always be here to some extent, but finding new strategies for storage and organization might alleviate the stress that piles of junk cause.

2 | Pretend someone is watching

This seems silly, but it is not a bad way to practice patient parenting. We all try and bring our A Game when company is around, so why not spend some time in our day interacting with our kids like we were under a microscope. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect.

3 | Focus on the short term – what will life look like in an hour

When family life derails and the home is in complete chaos you will find yourself snapping. Stop. Think to yourself, “yes, right now is the pits, but what will life look like in an hour? If I can hang on and make it an hour, will this hot mess still be here?” Most likely the answer is no. Although meltdowns and tantrums seem like they last forever, they don’t. Naptime, bedtime, a favorite show, or daddy walking through the door will happen and you will be saved, even if only temporarily. Focus on that short term and get to the next parenting checkpoint.

4 | Be an active listener

Heaven knows this one is going to be the death of me. Listening to their screeching, crying, and drama hurts my brain and I truly don’t want to listen. Ask them what is making them so ornery, so frustrated, and so darn annoying. Statements such as “Help me understand why you are so upset” and “Share with me what is making you so angry” leave the door open for communication rather than lectures and punitive speech.

5 | Get over yourself – don’t take it all personally

Three-year-olds will bring you to your knees, but remember they aren’t out to destroy you or break your will to live, even though it feels that way. Taking the personal emotion out of intense situations with your kids will help diffuse your anger so that you can better manage your children. After all, everyone says things they don’t mean from time to time.

6 | Make time for yourself

This should be so much easier than it really is. If mom’s battery is dead, she can’t very well power the mothership. Parents have to take care of their own needs so that they can better take care of their families. Sometimes this means a weekend away from the zoo, other times it means a mid-day nap or an hour of silence while your spouse takes the kids grocery shopping. Different strokes work for different folks, but dang moms! Find your stroke … fast!
So these are my six starting points to becoming a patient parent. They are manageable, straight forward, and completely doable. Here’s to hoping for more peace in the New Year for our world and our homes!