Reclaiming Patience — Can It Be Done?


If I could find a decorative sign with the saying Patience is a Virtue, I would hang it prominently in my home to remind us all that we can’t have everything we want when we want it, lest we become whiny, perpetually dissatisfied beasts.

Patience  (noun) 1. The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Ironically, I just returned home from dropping the minivan off to be fixed.  On the ride back to the house, kindly given by my teenager in our other car, she informs me that she and some friends will be using the car to go to Castle Island in South Boston today and that she has already discussed this with my husband.  My first thought was: I will be without a car on this gorgeous, sun-filled day.

Instead of thanking my teenager for getting out of bed and following me to the auto body shop, I felt instantly annoyed by this new information. Without thinking I snapped  at her that I would need her to help clean up around the house before she left.  In my impatience I blurted it out in a tone that sounded bitter and mean, kind of like Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest.  As a result I was treated to some eye rolling.  The whole exchange could have been pleasant if I had given myself time to think.  I really didn’t need the car.  I had things to do at home and going for a walk would be beneficial.  Patience is a Virtue.

Patience (noun)  2.  An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

My family has a hard time waiting.  Each of us is currently waiting for some big events to arrive and we are guilty of getting restless:

  • Fifteen days left of high school for my daughter (and then the start of college a few months later).
  • Less than a month until my sophomore son takes his driver’s license test.
  • A seventh grade week-long trip to Washington, DC for my youngest child.  (She’s finally there this week after she thought it would never come).
  • An exterior painting makeover for our house, weather pending, any time now.  (Some may wonder if it’s an abandoned home, it looks so bad).
  • Spring weather!  It’s almost May and brief flurries are in tomorrow’s forecast.  Sigh.
  • Big events are hard to wait for but the waiting serves a purpose.  The waiting makes the event that much more delightful.  Christmas, Hanukah, big trips, graduations, marriages, the arrival of newborn babies, house renovations —  all require planning, preparation and yes, funding.  Surviving the wait is almost as joyous as the event itself.

On the other hand, there is a different kind of waiting or patience that is almost missing these days.  These days it’s easy to get what we want, when we want it, thanks to technology and the availability of services and conveniences.   I worry that the younger generation, including my own teenagers, is slowly forgetting how it feels to have to wait even a short amount of time for something.

Recently we picked up donuts to bring to my in-laws’ house.  Prior to going into Dunkin Donuts, one of my children made a request for bottled water. This certainly wasn’t a major request, or an expensive one, but I decided she could survive the ten minute ride to her grandparent’s house without water.  She disagreed wholeheartedly.  (She survived).

7079fe14-ac9e-4fc3-ae62-86b6f0bf8e36How many of us need a coffee to drive wherever we’re going?  How many of us prefer to grab a coffee on the go rather than wait for the coffeemaker to brew a pot?   When I was little, people drank their coffee before they left the house or waited until they reached their workplaces to have a cup.  Now people can’t wait.  They need to drive directly from home to the nearest drive-through.

When I was a teenager, it was a treat to get a manicure and a pedicure. We would wait to get one when we had a special occasion to attend.  It was a treat to eat out at a restaurant.  I didn’t know what eyebrow waxing was (and I certainly would have benefitted from this service).  Watching TV and going to the movies was a one-shot deal.  There were no videos and DVDs and On Demand.  We looked forward to seeing our favorite TV shows on their scheduled nights and we talked about them with our friends the next day.  Today, young girls are getting manicures and pedicures and all sorts of expensive hair treatments on a regular basis.  (Do teens have bad hair days anymore?)

I’m sure there are plenty of people who choose to eat at home and who don’t need fancy beauty treatments, clothes and gadgets.  In fact, most people know when they need to “tighten the belt” and when to turn off the TV or computer.   But I also know that we could all use a little more self-restraint and that requires patience.

Patience (noun) 3.  Quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.

There are some things that absolutely demand time and patience.  Earning a degree, writing a thesis paper, mastering a golf swing, learning a foreign language, saving for college or building up the strength and stamina to run a marathon – all necessitate patience.   We owe it to our children to emphasize the importance of sticking with a task patiently – to not give up no matter how boring, uncomfortable or challenging a task might be.

Today I was fortunate to be able to have lunch with my Godchild Elise.  At 13, Elise knows more about patience and perseverance than most kids her age and probably more than many adults.  Elise was born with an upper limb anomaly.  She is missing her left hand.  Most kids Elise’s age want nothing more than to be accepted by their peers. They dress alike, talk alike and form friendships based more on their similarities than their differences.

Elise has been navigating the same world as her peers but she has developed a different mindset. While the average 13 year old makes the most of her strengths and minimizes her weaknesses, Elise makes the most of her strengths and prevails over her weaknesses.   She’s a good student but admits that math is not as easy or enjoyable for her as science and reading. (She’s reading Pride and Prejudice for fun).  She has set a goal for herself:  To work extra hard at math since she’s hearing that high school math is significantly harder and she will need strong math skills to pursue a career in either neonatology, genetics or forensic pathology.

I have no doubt that Elise will succeed at challenging math.  This is a girl who learned at a very young age to focus on her abilities rather than her disabilities.   She learned how to dress herself and tie her shoes – no Velcro necessary. Her parents nudged her to give swimming a try.  She didn’t love it at first but stuck with it and now swims competitively.  She writes poetry, knits and does Pilates.  Many of the tasks that others take for granted require patience, practice and determination for Elise to master.  (She had to sit out when her gym class did chin ups on a bar).  She has no desire to be fitted with a prosthetic device simply because she has managed just fine without one.

Has all this been easy for her?  Not at all.  She has suffered through her share of girl drama.  (She now prefers to hang out with academically driven students).  She is accustomed to people staring at her anomaly.  But she wishes they would approach her with questions rather than remain silent.  In fact, she chose to talk to her mother’s fourth grade students about her missing hand – to demonstrate how efficiently she can do certain tasks.  To welcome their questions and eliminate any misconceptions they may have.  I have a feeling Elise’s future is very bright indeed.  She has the patience and determination to make it so.

That’s a wicked good teen.








2 responses »

  1. Well written as usual my friend. I have had the pleasure to work with Elise for three years. She’s an absolute delight! Thanks for sharing your writing.

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