Much of life is about cultivating patience, or dealing with consequences of not having enough patience, or learning coping strategies for when there’s no more patience. Patience, patience, patience.
For example, I have no patience when it comes to a good book. The idea of reading a couple of chapters at a time and putting it away until the next day? Alien concept. It’s all or nothing. And yeah, I may have lost a lot of sleep because of that.
I have a very strange amount of patience for listening to certain songs or albums on repeat endlessly. I mean, endlessly. I think I listened to nothing but the Hamilton soundtrack for at least four months.
I don’t really feel like I have much patience for complex, tedious work but my mother disagrees when she sees me knit or do other craft things. When it’s something I enjoy though that can’t really be having patience, can it? It’s like that saying “if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Having kids? That’s a whole new ninja level of patience. It’s the patience to listen to crying without throwing yourself (or the baby) out of the window. The patience of dealing with never ending loads of laundry, nappy changes, formula bottles, sleepless nights, and so much more. It’s the patience of spending four months surviving the “I want to throw all my food off the high chair” phase. Then it’s the six months of “I want to throw all the toys in my reach really, really hard.” I’ve lost track of how long the “I want to use everything that comes to hand to bang against every surface within reach.” We are also simultaneously dealing with the “I only want to wear this one shirt every day, no other shirt is acceptable” phase.
Parenting is really achieving master levels of patience. But there is nothing, nothing that compares to our newest phase.
The “I want to zip up my own jacket” phase.
It started with insisting on putting on his own cardigans and coat using the Montessori trick of putting the coat on the ground with the inside facing up, standing at the top of the coat, and putting his arms into the sleeves before flipping the coat up over his head. It’s pretty neat to watch, actually. The first few times. But the consequence of this independence is that he now insists on sweeping up the floors of every place we frequent in the process of getting dressed. I have to first of all make sure the sleeves aren’t turned inside out, then I surrender the cardigan into his custody and watch as he flaps it about and drags it along the floor until it’s lying just so and he can proceed to sticking his arms inside. Sometimes the sleeves of his shirt ride up to his elbows and he starts to complain, so after he puts on his cardigan I have to take it off one sleeve at a time, fix the shirt sleeves, and put the cardigan back on.
THEN we do it all over again with the coat because it’s winter and we layer.
Deep breath. Count to ten. Count backward from ten.
And when you think you are at the end of your rope and there is literally nothing left inside you that can be twisted into the slimmest shred of patience, he insists that he wants to zip up his own cardigan and coat.
Have you ever watched a three year old trying to zip up their own jacket? Even if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a sight that’s designed to test the patience of angels and buddhas. Snipers who are trained to sit still without moving for 15 hours at a time will find their eye starting to twitch in irritation after thirty seconds. Yogis who have mediated in the Himalayas for months surviving on nothing but mountain water and grass will find themselves tapping their foot impatiently.
“Would you like some help with that, honey?”
“No! I do it myself.” he states emphatically after numerous attempts to connect the two sides of the zipper fastener. He manages to almost get it but the zipper is not lined up properly and gets stuck as soon as he tries to pull it up. I am contemplating which of the ornamental imitations of samurai swords on our mantle would be the best choice for performing seppuku. The tanto or wakizashi are the appropriate ones for such a ritual, but only the full length katana has any sort of an edge to it. We’ve zipped up the cardigan but now he’s biting his lip as he’s struggling to repeat this miracle with his coat. I contemplate what sort of creative feat of engineering would be required to carry out the ritual of seppuku with a sword that’s longer than your arm. However, irony of ironies, I don’t have the patience to come up with a solution.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to help you?”
“No! I do it!”
Deep breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to ten. Count backward from ten. Contemplate inner peace. Wonder if you can achieve inner peace by just repeating the words “inner peace” over and over and over and over again in your mind a la Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. Laugh at yourself over being nearly forty and feeling sympathy and identifying with an animated talking red panda bear. Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to ten. Count backward from ten. Contemplate the potential cathartic release of tension by going on a rampage and wondering if “watching a toddler zip up his own coat” is a valid legal argument for justifiable homicide. Deep breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to ten.
“Ok, maybe you help a little mommy.”
Congratulations. You’ve survived to lose your sanity another day.