Patience. It isn’t necessarily a quality I would attribute to myself. Not without some internal effort at least.
I can sit and stare at a problem on my computer, methodically looking through hundreds of lines of code, attempting to identify a bug and fix it. It can take seconds, minutes, hours, or sometimes days to do that. I can do this where others may not. This is where my patience holds.
I do not have patience with people, at least I never thought so, but occasionally I surprise myself. When patience is the last thing on my mind, but is needed most, it happens. It’s happened at work when a colleague has been incredibly upset about something that I too was annoyed with, I listened to the rant and calmly replied with a reasonable response attempting to diffuse the frustrations (it also happens the other way around, probably a bit more often).
It also happens with my children. Yes, I know I lose my patience all too often with them. They can push my buttons like no other person on the planet. I even struggle to watch my toddler do a puzzle. I can see him trying to put the right piece in the right place but at the wrong orientation and I can feel the ball of frustration building up inside my stomach. I want to help him, but I want him to figure it out for himself more. I suggest he might like to try it a different way around, and he turns it. All the way round 360 degrees. Aaarrrrrgghh….
Then something big happens, and my patience holds.
An ordinary bedtime.
Pyjamas laid out.
Naked, post-bath toddler.
We attempt to put his pyjamas on.
He won’t have it. He runs away and refuses to come back.
I tell him he needs to come and put his pyjamas on. He refuses.
I tell him if he doesn’t come back, then I’ll come and get him. He refuses.
I go and get him.
He unleashes the storm.
This isn’t a regular tantrum. It’s something more. I don’t know why it’s occurring, it takes me totally by surprise.
I have a wailing, naked, toddler in my arms.
His screaming is so loud my ears hurt.
He lashes out with his legs kicking me. It hurts.
I sit down on the floor with him facing away from me, my arms around him, holding him close but gently. This stops him kicking.
He slams his head backwards into me, narrowly missing my chin. It hurts.
I position myself so his head is against my shoulder so he can’t headbutt me again.
My arm gets a bit too close to his mouth. He bites. It hurts.
I adjust my position, still holding him close, putting my face next to his so I can whisper to him.
I speak to him gently, my voice calm. He is still screaming at me.
I can feel the heat emanating from his head. He is so hot.
He screams. I whisper.
I tell him I know he’s angry, but he needs to calm down.
I tell him I know he’s annoyed with me, but he needs to calm down.
I tell him I know he doesn’t want to go to bed, but he needs to calm down.
All the while I hold him close, ignoring anything he’s trying to do to me.
Slowly, his storm calms.
He becomes more responsive.
He comes back to his usual self.
His storm has gone.
What surprised me the most was that at no point did my own storm even attempt to show itself. Out of his frustration and anger came my calmness.
My husband watched all this on the ‘nanny-cam’ that was pointed directly at us while this was happening, and commented on how well he thought I handled it. I didn’t really handle it though, I just reacted, there wasn’t much thought involved.
This is the worst it has ever been, it’s only happened like this a couple of times, and never with my husband, only with me. This was not just a tantrum, but it also wasn’t a full-on sensory meltdown as I still had some input.
The storm is destructive, it is anger. While my child’s storm rages on I find myself in the eye of my own, the calm taking over. His storm calmed mine, and my calm reduced his.
So, maybe I am not a patient person, but I do have patience when it is needed most, and that is what matters.