Patience is a topic that keeps coming up over and over for moms with young children. This is definitely one of my major struggles as a parent. My daughter Madeleine is three (“three and a half!” as she will remind people) and most days, I find myself struggling several times not to lose patience with her. Sometimes it’s her endless requests for me to play with her when I’m trying to get some chores done, sometimes it’s the refrain of “But why?” when I ask her to do something, and sometimes it’s fairly inexplicable actions. (“Why did you just smear yogurt all over your hands and the table?!” “I don’t know….”) I think a big part of my tendency to become impatient with her, since she is a very verbal and articulate kid, is that I expect her maturity to match her communication. Since she’s old enough to understand a direction when I give it, I expect her to follow it right away, forgetting that there are other developmental issues besides communication at work in her responses.
At times like these, I return to a great essay that is typed on a piece of paper, tacked to the side of my fridge. It really helps me regain perspective on my daughter’s development, and how my reactions to her are going to make a permanent impression on her life. I don’t know where this essay came from- I’ve had it for years, and I think it was given to me in one of my college education classes many years ago. There’s no author listed, and I’ve Googled in vain to try to give it the proper attribution. If you’ve ever read this before, or know who the author is, please let me know! But I hope it’s as good a reminder to you as it’s been to me, as we try to be patient and gentle with our children’s hearts and emotions.
Remember, I’m Only a Child
Seeing Life from a Child’s Point of View
My hands are not skilled like yours. Please don’t expect perfection when I’m making my handcraft, passing the milk, or playing with a ball.
My legs are much smaller than yours. Please slow down so that I can keep up with you.
My eyes have not seen nearly as much as you have. Many things are new to me, and many times I am going too fast and miss God’s creation. Please help me see the beauty of the wildflower, the pureness of the morning mist, and the uniqueness of even the smallest of God’s creatures.
My life is simple, and I don’t understand all the things you need to get done. Please take time to listen, to care, and to understand my simple world.
My feelings are quite soft. Please do not handle them harshly. They are closely related to my memory. Can you give me good memories?
Sometimes I’m kind of different from other kids in some way. Please treasure me as God’s special creation that He put in your hands. Sometimes I need rules, sometimes guidelines, sometimes discipline, but I always need your compassion.
Being so young, I often do things wrong or I don’t know how to do them at all. I need your continual encouragement and patient instruction. Criticism really hurts because I try hard but fail often.
Yes, I make mistakes, but that is one way I learn. Please give me the freedom to make mistakes, but don’t let me make very bad ones that will hurt others or me.
I like to do many things that you call work, so please don’t take the pleasure out of these things by making them work. After I do something, please do not follow behind me and redo it. That makes me feel as if I am not good enough and you do not like what I do. That is discouraging.
I’m so little compared to you, but I like it when you make me feel big. Thank you for talking to me in ways that say, “You are someone very important”.
Someday, I’m going to be grown up like you. I’m watching you very closely to learn the right way. Please don’t let me down.
Isn’t that beautiful? Practical yet visionary… and encouraging to me to take a deep breath, calm down, and have patience in my responses to my children. Do you have any other good ways to remind yourself to be patient with little ones?