So I was cleaning out some old emails and came across the story below in one of them. I am not a patient person, especially with those who need it the most: children. Which is a black spot on my conscience and on me as a person. But no matter how much resolve I start out with each day to be a more patient mom, something always seems to go very awry and I lose my cool. And then I feel like shit and wonder what the magic trick is (besides their bedtime) to bring me this elusive patience, or if one even exists.
In the story below, the old man reminds me of my children in the way that he's a fumbling mess with his food. He actually will probably remind anyone with a child of their child.
THE WOODEN BOWL
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor."
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
Children can be frustrating. Very, very frustrating. Like the old man, they don't have the abilities and motor skills, among a thousand other things, that we would like them to have. I need to remind myself more that they can't help it. I need to remind myself more that it won't last forever; they'll grow out of this annoying and frustrating stage
not quickly enough eventually. I'll do my best to remember that I don't want to make them feel like shit for stuff they can't yet help.
Perhaps it will work. But as I'm watching Connor jump on the couch that he's been told not to jump on literally 25 times a day for the past year and feeling my blood pressure climb, I'm thinking not.