Impatience: The Emotional Chameleon
A couple of years ago, my bright, healthy son started having meltdowns every time we did math. He had just started multiplication and division with vigor, but out of nowhere couldn't seem to think straight every time we opened the books. The insecure parent/educator inside of me took over my brain and I started assuming he was just going to struggle with math. He would complain its too hard and just dreaded doing any math. This was a hurdle I had feared might come because he was took after me and favored reading over math. I panicked a bit at the thought of years of struggle when it came to math. Still, we went after it and I started noticing things that just didn't make sense. Sometimes he had no trouble at all, knowing answers right off the top of his head and completing work quickly. Other times he was frozen in the "I can't!" mode that every child seems to be preprogrammed with. Over about 4-6 weeks I discovered that my son did not have any legitimate learning problems, mathematical or otherwise. Instead, my handsome and big hearted son was very impatient! The new elements he was learning sometimes took 3-4 seconds rather than the 1-2 seconds of the past to understand or produce a correct answer. He absolutely could understand and do the work when he bothered to try, but like all of us feel sometimes, he just didn't want to take the time.
Impatience is something that we easily sweep under the rug as a minor issue that toddlers and brats who should know better give in to fits when food doesn't come fast enough. But impatience masquerades as all kinds of things. I've thought myself to be a lot of different things in my life - stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, inadequate, angry, frustrated, entitled, critical, indecisive, and numerous others - but rarely have I thought that I struggle with impatience. When you think of any of those states of being, they can easily be the result of an impatient feeling. When something is too hard or another person isn't doing it quite right, it's common and easy for us to react out of impatience. This impatience is especially hard to see when it has to do with our needs and wants. When other people aren't giving us what we think we deserve or need, isn't it easy to overreact? Turning my attention to God and asking Him for wisdom on how and when to react isn't usually my first instinct.
The American landscape is definitely in turmoil right now and, if you're like me, you spent the whole summer hoping and praying that it would just end already. "When will things go back to normal?" we asked. Regardless of what you may think normal is or should be, clearly God is allowing this mess for learning purposes. As my son has now figured out, learning harder things takes a little more time than easier things. New things aren't naturally going to be easy, but likely challenging just because you've never done this before. I have never parented and educated a 9, 7 and 3 year old in the midst of virus chaos and political chaos at 40 years old. I'm also trying to aggressively lose weight, take on a new role at our co-op, and live life with my husband at home 98% of the time. All new and challenging things, no matter their value or positive gain.
In our house we have lovingly defined patience as waiting with a good attitude. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Especially when you're talking to a small child who just wants to go already. But it falls on deaf ears a lot when you're worrying about your loved one alone in the hospital or the extra money you were counting on is now gone, Or the world feels utterly out of control with fear and destruction looming in every direction. It almost feels insulting to tell yourself to be patient. And yet, waiting just a moment longer can make a difference.
I'm trying to do a lot of new or challenging things right now that some days just seem too hard. They are good things and honestly, aren't too hard. I just want them to come easier and to feel in complete control much more often than I do. I'm thinking that patience - intentionally waiting with a GOOD attitude - is where I need to focus more of my attention right now. How about you?