Some Thoughts on Gentleness and Patience

Some Thoughts on Gentleness and Patience

As I strive to allow God to reshape me in his image, I find myself focusing recently on being more gentle and patient with Isabella and Sophia. God has been giving me words to strengthen me for the journey. Posting them here so I can find them again. And I also thought maybe I should pass some of them on cause they might be useful to someone else.

This piece from finslippy seems an odd choice for this list; but here’s the thing: it convicts me. I know it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But I sometimes have a deficient sense of humor (Dom tells me so all the time: I’m too serious and spend far too much time analyzing jokes and over-thinking things.) and what I feel when I read it is shame. This is the voice I too often hear, the complaining, it’s all about me voice that breeds anger and resentment against my children when I let it rant unchecked. I know that’s not how the author intends it; but that’s how it speaks to my heart right now, a warning:

If you could slosh as much of your cereal as possible all over the table, that would be fantastic. Cleaning up after you makes me feel useful. When I ask you to help out, you know I’m joking, right? Hilarious!

Read you an entire book while you�re eating your breakfast? No problem�I secretly hate enjoying my coffee and breakfast in peace. Also I am DYING to know how this Magic Tree House book turns out. It�s never the same thing twice.

There�s no rush about getting to school. Put your shoes on whenever.

My raised voice is just an attempt to exercise my lungs. You keep not putting those shoes on, champ.

This came to my attention on the same day as this strongly contrasting piece by the lovely Elizabeth Foss. I love what she says about seeking gentleness and patience:

Often, when I look for ways to inspire virtue in my children, I find instead that virtue is inspired in me first. This one hit me between the eyes. St. Jean Vianney piqued my interest immediately by pointing to the example of a favorite saint. He wrote, �St. Francis de Sales, that great saint, would leave off writing with the letter of a word half-formed in order to reply to an interruption.� Hey, Elizabeth, saints don�t say �just a minute� and then finish writing the sentence or the paragraph or the entire post or project while toddlers melt down and little boys wrestle. They leave the letters half-formed.

Since neither St. Jean Vianney nor St. John Bosco was a mother who worked at home, it probably wasn�t little girls with big blue eyes and crazy curls who interrupted them. No, they probably put their pen down for older people, people who really could wait. People who pretty much didn�t depend on them for the whole world. But my small people depend on me for everything and still I sometimes see them as interruptions.

Surely children must learn to wait; I don�t dispute that fact. Often, though, adults must learn to stop and see the child and to respond with careful attention and thoughtful gentleness. Children can teach us to be present in the moment. They can require us to slow down and truly listen, because, frankly, no one can readily understand a two-year-old without focusing and looking at context and listening carefully and asking clarifying questions. No one can listen to a two-year-old with absentminded attention while attempting to multi-task and really understand what the child is saying. And neither mother nor child grows in virtue if interruptions are met with anger.

Children can teach us gentleness, if only we have teachable spirits. Gentle mothers make an effort to speak softly and less often, to listen carefully and more often. Mothers who are able to permeate the atmosphere of their homes with gentleness can see God�s hand when a child interrupts her work. Like the monastery bell calls a monk, the child calls Mother to service and her work with the child becomes a prayer. If she is wise, she will see opportunity to grow in holiness in every interruption. She will count every call to gentleness over exasperation a blessing.

Yeah, I’m not so god at hearing these tings as a call to holiness. And even when that little voice breaks through the raging of my indignation, I’m not so good at listening to it. I’m more prone to brush it aside: that’s all very well for you, it says, but this is a crisis!

Putting myself aside and stepping back to calm down once I get all worked up is hard. I lose it at least once a day, usually more often. But the wonderful thing is that children are wonderfully forgiving, sometimes I feel they are too forgiving. A minute or so after I’ve blown my top, they will seem to have forgotten it completely and throw their little arms around me. I don’t deserve it. Even less do I deserve the infinite patience and mercy of my loving Father who puts up with all my tantrums.

Then there is this pair of posts on the subject of knowing when you are expecting too much of your toddler, which when I look closely I see is often at the root of many of my frustrations. The One Method of So-Called Discipline That Doesn’t Work. And a follow-up: Cranky Two-Year Old which offers some good, concrete advice for ways to navigate when you realize you’ve asked too much and got yourself into a confrontation of wills with a child who is usually helpful an compliant.

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