This post was originally published on my PhDadBlog.
I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. Especially in terms of this quote attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time.”
Like so much of what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said and written, they are incredibly simple words that carry incredibly deep implications. And I’ve been thinking about them particularly in relation to parenting. Just about every single time I take a moment to reflect on a parent-child interaction that went poorly, I come to the realization that if I had shown juuuust a little more love or juuuust a little more patience, the crisis could have been completely averted. Then for a brief second I think: “But come on! I really wanted to get back to watching House of Cards on Netflix! It was totally reasonable!”…before sighing and hating myself for failing to show my own son the kind of unconditional, unequivocal, unquestioning, and absolute love and patience he – and everyone in this world, for that matter – deserves every single moment of his life.
But it’s true. If I say I love my sons, then nothing should be too much trouble. And there should always be time. To help me remember my new parenting mantra, I’ve compiled a nowhere-near-comprehensive list of times when it’s especially challenging to remember that nothing is too much trouble and there is always time:
- When, after doing the exact same thing with the 7YO multiple times, I agree to doing it “one last time” only to have him suddenly come up with clever – and often surprisingly subtle – ways to complicate and prolong the final attempt before I’m free.
- When he climbs up the ladder to his loft bed at normal speed, but moves at a sloth-like pace from the last rung of the ladder to his place under the blanket.
- When he asks “wanna see me do that in super slow motion?” Usually with regards to brushing his teeth or getting in bed.
- When it feels like it takes forever for him to get out of the car. Specifically what should be the very short time between opening the door, and actually exiting the vehicle.
- When his wildly imaginative “what if…” scenarios DO. NOT. END. And always pick up steam at bedtime. When I’ve already said goodnight. And am trying to close the door to his room.
- When asking him to go from Point A to Point B inevitably adds stops at any and all toys, books, people, whatevers that catch his attention along the way.
- When he expresses urgent concern that he’ll be late for school because he hasn’t changed yet, but I find him 10-15 minutes later in his room either A) Reading a book half naked, or B) Staring off into space. Also half naked.
- When it takes 10+ sips for him to finish a 1.5 teaspoon serving of bubble gum flavored allergy medicine. Yes. I counted.
- When it’s the last 10 minutes of a 12+ hour day with the kids and my patience is at its lowest, making it the perfect time for him to test the limits of my love and patience, and I know that the tone and content of what I say next will determine whether he – and I – go to bed calm and happy or frustrated and sad.
- When the 21MO falls asleep with his head resting on my shoulder while rocking him to music, but wakes up and cries as soon as I take my first step towards the bed with a mind to set him down. I mean come on! You’re obviously asleep already!
- When the 21MO does not take a nap at the exact time I want him to, or wakes up from one before I can finish an episode of Daredevil.
The fact of the matter is, if I’m truly being honest in my self-assessment, parenting is always the hardest – and the potential for making bad parenting choices always the highest – when I’m being selfish. When I’m feeling even slightly rushed to get the kids through a part of their day because there’s something I want to do. Maybe there’s a quick email I really want to write. Maybe there’s a short video or new trailer I want to watch. A movie I‘m hoping to start. A food I want to make and/or eat. An article or book I want to read. Some complication I want to avoid. Some Me time I’m hoping to have.
The operative word in all those sentences, and the root of virtually all my parenting challenges, is I.
Otherwise known as the most basic unit of selfishness.
It’s time to do better.
How about it, parents? What are some things your kids do that test the limits of your patience and love and which can potentially push you to do better?