They say patience is a virtue. Well, the first known recording was in a poem called Piers Plowman written by William Langland between 1360 and 1387. It has similarities to an expression in latin as well. Either way, it appears that the struggles we tangle with have been very common throughout history. It is also one of the seven heavenly virtues. This makes a a lot of sense why it would be so highly regarded when you have children. Yesterday, my virtue list was put to the test. Holy Hell, I wasn’t aware it was possible to talk yourself off the cliff so many times in one day.
Since we moved our family to my parent’s farm, I have been staying home with the girls, and my wife has been working. To say this has been a challenge would be a large understatement. The change of pace is nothing but abrupt. Yes I get to take naps, yes we just hang out all day. No it is not a dream. It is very challenging. I give all the credit to those that stay home and raise children. Work seems like a vacation. Now that I have been on both sides of the fence, the picture is starting to gain some clarity.
With the change of my wife working, our 3 year old is having quite the time. Very simply put, she misses Mama. What I see are legendary freak outs, spitting, blowing snot, endless screaming, and the list goes on. Yesterday, we dropped off Mama at work and went to fill the rig up with gas and wash Betty Blu (thats our sweet van). Then we went to the park for an hour or two. We had a blast swinging, climbing, and chasing birds. I was pretty happy with how our morning was moving along. Papa got a few things done, and the girls had fun. We got home and all I was seeing was yawns and eyes closing. It was time to lay down and have quiet time. For any of you with children, you know timing is so important here. Too early and your colossally screwed, too late and you may as well light your day on fire. I am not sure the exact time window, but its gotta be similar to the chances of winning rigged games at the county fair. Its very small.
We all laid in bed and all was pretty calm. Our 3 year old was a bit weepy which is normal, and the younger one (18 mos) was just laying down relaxing. Then we jumped on the accelerator. I can’t even tell you what happened. The 3 year old started to cry and say she didn’t want to sleep. And as any of you know, when you draw a line, you hold that damn line. Or your kids will walk all over you. I drew the line for quiet time, and I wasn’t budging. The screaming went on for 20 minutes or so, this was high pitch screaming, yelling that she didn’t want to sleep, yelling that she wanted to sleep somewhere else, and yelling general protests.
Then came the active part. This was a nice buffet of kicking, throwing her body around the bed, shaking her head back and forth, standing and yelling, and screaming into the blankets. The general theme here was movement around the bed. Some more violent then others. It was at this point that safety became a concern.
She is allowed to be mad, and she is allowed to express herself. She is not allowed to be unsafe with her body or someone else’s body. It was here I gave her the choice to stop or I was going to hold her body till she would stop and be safe. I counted to 5 with no change in her behavior. I held onto her, much like cradling a child. I told her very calmly that in order for me to let loose, she would need to calm her body. She was able to stop throwing her body around, after she peed all over me. Right now we are 35-40 minutes into a very loud session. I went to grab her new pants, and changed my pants. And this gave us a much needed break. She then struggled to put her undies back on, and this sent her back into a tailspin.
This is the precipitous chapter of the session. She began to spit, and blow her nose in between screams. Mind you this entire time, I am laying in the bed next to her little sister who is still not sleeping, nor has she cried one time. Keeping yourself and the other child calm during a crazy freakout will burn your candle all the way down 10x over. At this point 45 minutes has gone by. She said that she wanted to sleep in her little sister’s bed. At this point I was willing to give a little, saying that she could live up to her side of the bargain. If she would calm down and sleep, I was willing to let her sleep there. I made this very clear, and helped her get in her sister’s bed. She yelled a bit, and cried a bit, and then finally fell asleep. Then her sister began to scream. She fortunately had a very short-lived crying spell.
This was the better part of an hour. From 11ish to noon yesterday, we battled. At about 2pm, my 3 year old woke up. We very calmly talked about what happened. Talking through actions and how this makes people feel is very important. As an adult, my hardest struggle is to let it go. Understanding that she is trying to deal with inner frustration, and she doesn’t have many tools to use, yet. It really has nothing to do with me. It really just comes down to change, and her missing her mom.
The rest of the day went pretty well, despite a few hiccups. We played outside, and petted the animals. Then we went to pick up Mama. I thought we were in the clear. Shit, was I wrong. She got in the car and the hurricane showed up again. This time it was yelling and kicking and telling me which way to drive. She didn’t want to go home, she only wanted to go to the flower shop where my wife works. Clearly we found the issue. All the way home she was screaming. She hit herself, and coughed and carried on. We eventually stopped and my wife walked home with her. Living in a small town was key here. This individual time has been huge. As she has gotten older, the implicit competition with her sister has been bubbling beneath the surface. The older one is jealous of the attention the younger one gets. So time away has been so helpful. My wife strapped on the carrier, buckled her in, and her body immediately lost tension and her spirits heightened.
People have been having children since, well the beginning. The battles are the same. The virtues are the same as well. Understanding your purpose, and your role as a parent is huge. We are here to protect our children, and empower them to live fulfilling lives. We are here to direct them, and reveal to them the tools that will help them navigate their emotions. Understanding where you stand is vital to your approach in parenting.
So patience is said to be a virtue. I would whole heartily agree. Losing your sanity is a slippery slope. It takes no time to lose your head and get wrapped up in the emotion. It takes all the intention and gumption you can muster to stay stapled down to that line your holding, with calmness while holding boundaries. You just need to decide where you draw this line. Value the higher things. Value the virtues. Patience my friend is quite the chase.