This morning, as usual, we were running a little behind schedule.
“Lily, put on your coat,” I said to my daughter, who is five, as I zipped up my son, Jackson’s, snowsuit. Lily rolled lazily on the floor, with her coat over her face.
A minute later. “Lily, please put on your coat,” I said again, working to maintain my composure and resisting the powerful urge to just do it for her. Lily completely ignored me, and began to pull off one of her socks. Are you kidding me?! How many times do I have to ask?! I thought to myself. I’m pretty sure that at this point in my life 99% of everything I say goes completely unheard by my daughter–and it’s making me insane.
Eventually… finally… at last… Lily had her coat on, re-put on her socks, her boots, hat, mittens… and eventually, finally, at last we were out the door and getting into the car to go to school.
Lately, it feels like at every turn, my patience is tested. I have a five-year-old and a one-year-old (need I say more), but also a job where the results of my work are often not seen for weeks, months, or even years to come. I have writing that I want to finish and get started on, and personal goals for myself that I want done, like, yesterday. Like many teachers I have a perfectionist streak, and it’s hard to let things go unfinished–for even a few minutes, much less weeks, months, even years.
I’m at a stage right now where things are passing by both too quickly, and way way way too slowly. It feels like I blink, and my children are already older, and I worry that I’m missing it. On the other hand, it often feels like the end of the week can’t come soon enough. Last night, for example, was the longest night ever–Jackson had a fever and woke up every hour, on the hour; Lily said that her tummy “felt tight” and also wouldn’t sleep–it took at least thousand years worth of patience just to get through last night. “Long days and short years,” I think is the expression people use to describe the experience.
This is true in schools as well. It takes me just about as long to plan a day in a school as it does to actually teach a day in a school. After doing this job for more than a decade, I still haven’t figured out how to spend any less time planning. And still, even with all that planning, I arrive at each school, and each day flies by without enough time to do everything I had hoped to do. Unpredictable things happen, the schedule gets switched at the last minute, teachers have questions, people have ideas to share. Too often I try to fit everything in anyway — I rush, squeezing in as many possible activities, charts, lessons, discussions, packing in the information for teachers–but I think that I need to slow down and be more patient with the those I work with. Instead of packing more in, I need to learn how to account for the time it takes for people to process, ask questions, and have real discussions, and plan for that.
I recently took a quick online photography workshop, and one of the things that was emphasized was patience. You might see a really great shot, but maybe there’s a person standing in it, or too many cars going by in the background. If you just wait a little longer, you’ll get an even better shot. “Just hang out,” was the advice. I think I need to do that more. Just wait a little longer before jumping to the next thing.
So my one little word for the year is PATIENCE. Patience with my kids. Patience at work. Patience with my writing. Patience with myself.
I found this really great post on Practicing Patience from Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist. She explains that patience is actually a skill, and like any other skill you can get better at it with practice. I think her tips are very practical for life and for work. As she describes in her post, I plan to make this my year of PATIENCE.