We have a new baby in our house. What a blessing – Thank you Lord for Your many mercies! This child was much wanted and is much loved. We are in the throws of baby snuggling and little coos and kisses – and having a new baby also means an underslept mama which, in my house, is a set up for impatience and a short fuse.
No matter where we are in our parenting journey we all have those things that try our patience. Likely many things. This isn’t by accident. I truly believe that children are given to us to teach us patience (among many other lessons).
These are the moments when our sinfulness is tested and we must truly work to gain some control over our passions as well as show humility over and over when our passions gain control over us.
There is no question that this is not easy. But the benefits of maintaining our calm at first outwardly and then inwardly are so tangible. Those moments when we lose our cool with our children and they, in turn, lose their cool even more are some of the most challenging moments of parenting. Not only am I frustrated with my children, but now I am frustrated and disappointed with myself too!
There is a nagging voice in the back of many of our minds that makes us think that if we don’t nip whatever the offending behavior is in the bud right now our children will grow up to be – for lack of a better adjective – bad. Maybe we worry they’ll be selfish, unkind, impatient or angry or simply have terrible teeth. But the truth is that our anger and impatience does not breed peacefulness and patience in our children. If there’s a lesson for them to learn we are unlikely to get our message across if we lose our cool. Of course, if we are able to make amends afterwards we do teach important lessons on humility and forgiveness. Or if we can show we are angry and impatient, but we are working to control ourselves that could teach our children self-control. But most of the time we just need to take a deep breath and and pray to God for strength and patience.
Personally, I know that I am often aware of my passions and frustrated by them but rarely humble enough, in the moment, to recognize that I am too weak to control them on my own and need instead to cry out to God for mercy and help.
In the last year my two older children have had multiple issues with their teeth. Lots of cavities. That is despite my being a doctor and knowing full well not to give them juice or snacks at bedtime and despite our brushing their teeth twice a day. (Apparently it’s also part genetic?!) Needless to say I am now brushing everyone’s teeth rather than letting them brush their own. That is a lot of teeth to brush. So per my dentist recommendation they each lie down in turn and I brush their teeth for the full 2 minutes.
There are so many points of frustration for me around this. (And I use this as an example not of some huge difficulty that I have been given in my life but of the very simple daily tasks that cause us so much frustration.) First there’s arguing over who goes first. Some days they all want to go first and some days none of them do. Then there is the “just one more thing” moment as I sit on the couch or floor and wait for them to finish whatever they’re doing. Finally there is the brushing itself where they seem to adore flailing their arms and feet in the air occasionally even almost kicking me in the face. I’m trying to paint you a picture that as parents you likely will recognize in some form or another although my children may be more unruly than yours.
We had one such morning the other day. My husband had gone to work and I was trying to get everyone’s teeth brushed before school started. My eldest, almost seven, was lying on the floor and started dancing around with his arms and legs just as soon as I had started brushing. He knows full well how frustrating I find that behavior from many moments that I have chastised him for it. Looking down at him I had a moment of insight (perhaps my guardian angel tapping me on the shoulder) and simply began reciting the Jesus prayer in my mind as I smiled down at him. I could tell he was thrown off, expecting me to tell him off, but his behavior didn’t escalate but rather settled. My heart rate settled. Everyone’s teeth got brushed. There was no yelling or hard feelings. And I’d had a moment to connect in prayer. It was kind of perfect. And it made me realize how much easier I could make my life if I would give my frustration over to God rather than my children and pray more and more. Pray for me. Pray for them. Demonstrate patience and cultivate patience in the practice.
So take a minute to think of one of those daily moments of impatience. Getting out the door? Meal times? Chore times? Prayer time? And see if you can try, just as you notice your emotions beginning to overwhelm you, to stop take a breath and say a prayer. Whether or not it actually helps our children behave better, we and the whole world are benefited by prayer. You just might find a bit more of the “peace of soul” we are always praying for. And if we lose it anyway we’ll have plenty more chances to try it again.
In Christ’s love,