"I have abundant patience and love for my children. I have abundant patience and love for my children."
I've been repeating the affirmation to myself as often as possible, as often as I think to, over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes it's with a gentle half-smile on my face as I watch them over the top of my knitting playing delightfully with each other. Usually, however, it's in a kind of high-pitched, manic imaginary voice, desperate and breathless, as they fight or scream or push the endless buttons. I HAVE ABUNDANT PATIENCE AND LOVE FOR MY CHILDREN. I DO I DO I DO.
But I don't. Becoming a parent has shown me the depths of my impatience. I know all the right things to do on an intellectual level, but in practice, in the heat of the moment, I've got nothing. If you don't count my screams. At the end of a run-of-the-mill tussle over a toy or a dress or a bike, they move on unscathed, forgetting the moment, but I'm left panting, a worn-out heap in the corner. I've never been good at conflict.
And what of the love business? I love my kids, yes, adore their tiny pink socks off at times, miss them heartily in the rare moments I'm away, go to sleep at night remembering all the funny things they said that day, whilst automatically, quite cleverly I think, erasing all memories of the horror. But nonetheless I had to add 'love' to the affirmation because while it might be a given in theory, in practice it is far more fleeting. It can leave the room in an instant, then waft back in, only to vanish again a moment later. I might love them because I just do (because we do, we just do), but I don't love everything about them and I don't always love being with them. I don't love doing playdough. I don't love reading the 305th book of the day.
I don't know how to reconcile all of the madness with all of the mush. I don't know how to make sense of 'besotted' and 'crazy-angry' when they're lined up together on the shelf.
I do know that my kids are being kids. They're doing what comes naturally. And the thing that needs to change in this high-stress whirlwind isn't them.
Thus, I have abundant patience and love for my children.