I'm terribly impatient. All day, every day. I always thought I was just easily bored. But nothing will show up adult impatience like a preschooler. A preschooler has no concept of what it means to hurry. She lives in the moment, every moment. And the speed at which she selects her outfit for the day or puts on her shoes does not change, no matter how many times you tell her that she'll be late for school. The decision of which of several pink dresses to wear is vital. She must choose the right one, no matter how long it takes. Late? What's the point of being on time if you're wearing the wrong ensemble?
Of course, in the "getting ready for school" scenario, I have a valid reason for hurrying her. But I find myself clenching my fists and trying to bite my tongue even when there is no hurry. Will you just do it (whatever "it" is) and be done! Do we have to stop five times on the walk to the playground to look at random stuff on the ground and ask fifteen questions about it! Can't we just get there and start having fun already!
So, we must hurryto the playground, or, what? All the swings will be gone?
But, here's the thing. When your daughter gets obsessed with, say, a video game, it is soooo easy to just let her have at it. For way longer than is really, uh, good for her. Why? Because turning it off brings with it a few consequences for me that my inner sloth doesn't like: first, the protests of the child, which can go on for, yes, the rest of the day (it is an obsession, after all); and second, I'll have to figure out an alternative activity for her. And sometimes? Not really inspired to play Cinderella or Littlest Pet Shop or several games of Candyland. (Candyland at least has a beginning and an end, even though you're in big trouble if you accidentally pick up the Princess Frostine card, because that is Katrina's favorite card and woe to anyone who would evilly keep the card from her with the lame excuse of following the rules of the game!)
Now, that's not to say that I don't value time with my daughter. Snuggling up to read a book to her? Anytime. Hanging out on the playground? Not bad at all, especially after what seems like months of rain. Dressing up teensy-tiny plastic dolls while re-enacting the Cinderella story? Not my favorite.
ANYWAY, when my (natural?) impatience and/or sloth (and don't forget plain old selfishness!) comes to the fore, my mothering suffers. When my impatience builds up, I say things I regret later...or, even if I manage to control my words, my tone of voice gives it away every time. And it's not like my sharp words help the situation or motivate her to get moving, already! Similarly, when I give in to my desire to relax just a few more minutes while Katrina stares at a big screen, she and I both get grumpy later. We lose time when we could be doing something more positive, healthier, more nuturing to our relationship and to her development.
What have I learned from mothering? I've grown in understanding my own sinful nature--and how it can affect my attitude, my habitual reaction to frustration, and my parenting. And from the time we brought Katrina home from the hospital, I gained a new and terrifying understanding of how powerful a parent is in the life of a child.
In the midst of this inward struggle, the cycle of sin and regret, the Lord's Prayer comes to mind. "Deliver us from evil," it says. And me, I always prayed that evil would not harm me or my family. But some time in the past few years, that has changed.