When I was a kid my mom taught us a song about a snail named Herbert who needed to learn to have patience. Being the awesome big sister that I was, I often sang it to my brother whenever he was getting impatient. Of course, this always helped to bring him patience—not! Soon, this silly song became our way of irritating each other whenever we recognized that we were about to lose our patience.
Several years later, as I was raising four little kids and feeling a little stressed, I would find myself singing that song. As I watched my little girls growing impatient with each other or with that shoe they just couldn’t tie, I would sing them the song about the impatient snail.
When I was a kid, I thought my mom was teaching us that song to help us learn patience. But now that I’m older, I realize she was singing that song to remind herself to have patience.
I have to admit that I’ve lost my patience more than once. I can clearly remember a day at the park. I was there with several mom friends—using my “nice mom” voice. During that time, one of my girls pitched a fit when she couldn’t have the swing, one of them threw their lunch on the ground, one had to go to the potty every five seconds, and then they had a melt down as I tried to drag them across the parking lot to the car when it was time to go.
I falsely kept a smile on face the whole time. Buckled them in while taking deep cleansing breaths as they screeched. And the second I got in the van and shut the door I hollered: “I’ve had enough! I don’t want to hear another peep until we get home.” I yelled so loudly that I shocked them. Total silence for about five seconds. Then they all started to cry. Yep. I’d been pushed to the limit. I’d lost my patience.
I’ve been taught that love is patient. And I love my kids more than life. So, why is it so hard to be patient? Here’s why. I’m not perfect. I’m human. I’ve got a long way to go. I want to be patient . . . but sometimes I’m not. I don’t want to be pushy and snippy and impatient . . . but sometimes I am.
Here are a few things that help me when I’m struggling for patience:
1. I watch my tone. When I’m impatient my tone is short, bossy and snippy. When I choose a kinder tone I seem to be able to communicate with patience.
2. I step away. I know this is not always possible. But I’ve been known to lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes or go for a walk until I find my happy place.
3. I listen to music. Happy music. I have a playlist of happy songs and when I feel my impatience boiling up I turn up the tunes. Music has the ability to change my mood.
4. I look into their faces. When I look into the eyes of those kids that I love, it communicates something to my heart. It reminds me that I’m shaping who they will become. It smoothes out my patience.
5. I remember that others are patient with me. There’s a part in the Herbert the snail song that says, “Remember that God is patient too, and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.” Many have been and continue to be PATIENT with me. I’ve been on the receiving end and I know how good it feels.
What about you? Do you ever lose your patience with those little people you are trying to raise? What do you do when you are trying to gain patience with your kids?