A Lesson in Patience from My Toddler

Mother-Daughter

When my daughter was born, two major things happened. My body became an alien spacecraft, brought to the edge of destruction and back again (with some collateral damage, of course). But more importantly, I uncovered a limitless supply of patience that even Gandhi would admire.

These days I have no problem waiting the 8 minutes it takes for Ava to get out of her car seat. I hold the door open as she adjusts her socks, retrieves a penny from under the floor mat and eats the raisin stuck to the seat of her pants. All the while, I look up at the clouds, breathe in the fresh air and take a moment. Eight moments, to be exact. I don’t even mind that a run to the grocery store takes two hours instead of ten minutes. We have to de-goober the shopping cart, get a free cookie and open up every musical greeting card on display. I could fuss and yell and push and pull, but it wouldn’t speed things up. In fact, it would probably just slow things down.

Before Ava, I was not a patient person. In fact, I was perpetually premenstrual and pre-hypertension. During commercial breaks, I’d wring my hands and grind my molars, and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d scream at the TV, “C’mon already!” until Sesame Street resumed. While mom drove me to school, I cursed other drivers, pedestrians, stop signs, orange cones–anything that stood between me and my most immediate desire.

Eventually Mom bought me this annoying little 45-vinyl record on which a stuffed-up Herbert the Snail sings, “Have patience, have a patience, don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry . . . ” Yeah, easy for a snail to say. Not so much for a type-A 10-year-old on sugar cubes. I was so impatient that I had to speed up the rpm’s just to get to the end of the song.

But somehow Ava changed all that. And yesterday showed me just how much.

I was driving home from shopping with my forever friend, Anne, when she went bat-doodie crazy.

We were only 10 miles from home when the traffic on the interstate came to standstill. Within 30 seconds, Anne was typing on her phone trying to determine the source of the hold-up. There must be reasons. Explanations. Solutions. She frantically called out radio stations I should turn to for a traffic report, but I kept finding myself distracted by the pretty Christmas music.

“Wow, this is so 1998,” I said after stumbling upon the N’Sync version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“There’s an accident at mile-marker 244,” Anne screamed. “What mile marker are we at?” When she discovered that we were still two miles away and traveling at 3 mph, she frantically calculated that we would be home in, oh, an hour. She started kicking at the dash like that kid that always sits behind you on the airplane. Then she took off her seatbelt and her coat and started pulling at the neck of her shirt as if it was a noose. I tried to remember how much coffee we’d had that day.

I thought maybe it was the Christmas music. Then I thought it was me when she considered running home. But when she began spewing 4-letter words peppered with manic laughter, I realized that something else was going on. She had lost her patience.

I did what little I could to retrieve it for her. I summoned Herbert.

“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such–”

She glared at me, but it must’ve helped some because she made a brief effort to feel empathy for the victims of the accident. But she quickly resumed her R-rated rants at the traffic, the mile-marker, N’Sync . . . She was like a rabid squirrel trapped in a glass jar. Worse yet, I was trapped with her.

“Let’s use this as bonding time,” I suggested. I felt like I was buying time with a terrorist until help arrived. Luckily, before she chewed her arm off (or mine), traffic opened up and we sailed home in silence.

I have loved Anne for 19 years in all of her anxiety-ridden glory. I understand her. I used to be her. But now I find myself cruising through life on an all-natural toddler tranquilizer. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s what moms do to survive. Whatever it is, I’d like to bottle it up and give it to my friend for Christmas.

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