Patience, please!

August 23, 2013

People frequently tell me they could never homeschool because they don't have the patience. There is a problem with this statement. I know there are people who simply cannot or should not homeschool. My problem is with the assumption that I am somehow supernaturally gifted with extreme patience.

I'm a mom. I have super powers, but, believe me, patience is not one of them. I think many people have a basic misunderstanding of this trait. What does it mean to be patient? The Free Dictionary has a nice definition, check it out.


Patient - adj.

1. Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

So, screaming while in pain is an indication of being impatient? That makes sense. As my doula could tell you, while in labor with Ducky I ignored that whole "breathe" thing and went straight for the "get this baby out NOW" thing. I was not at all patient with the pain and I was not exactly calm. I'm sure quite a few of you wonderful readers tolerate pain far more calmly than I.

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2. Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

Just last week a man edged past me to get to the check-out line first. He didn't want to have to stand behind the woman with the overly full cart. I understand. Then he gave me a smug smile and I knew what was coming. I hurt my back and was in a lot of pain. We had been running errands all day and I was exhausted. I knew I couldn't trust myself to speak kindly. I tried to walk away, but he asked before I could escape, "Wow, are they all yours?" I gave him a look and said, "Yeah, I haven't taken to stealing children just yet," rolled my eyes and walked over to the next aisle. The man still had that smug smile on his face, so hopefully he didn't realize I thought his question was stupid.

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3. Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.

I bet a lot of you are very patient with people who have differing beliefs or opinions. I have to work to not be judgmental, because I am passionate about my beliefs. Just because I don't actually tell people when I think they are wrong doesn't mean I am terribly patient. It just means I know my input might not be welcome, so I keep my trap shut. So, now you know sometimes I am faking being patient, and at least one of you thinks I'm awful. I won't tell you you're wrong.

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4. Persevering; constant: With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive.

Well, I am tenacious. Sometimes, I persevere to a fault. I've never had anyone call that patient. Of course, I tend to persevere like a bulldozer. If someone gets in my way, I just run them over. However, this is The Free Dictionary's definition, they know what they are talking about. Who am I to argue with professionals?

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5. Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.

I haven't been able to wait to find out whether I was carrying a boy or a girl with even one of my pregnancies. In fact, I have been known to scour the internet for information, as if there is a website that will tell me the gender of my child. I don't mean a website that makes suggestions on how to predict a baby's gender. No I am looking for a website to tell me, "Sara, your baby is a girl." Surely there is such a website, otherwise what good is the internet?

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6. Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

Really, Free Dictionary? I think we covered all of that already. I'm done with this definition stuff, let's move on.

Here is what I know about patience that The Free Dictionary did not bother to include in its definition. Patience is a muscle. Everybody is born with this muscle, although it may be weak. How do we strengthen a weak muscle? We use it until it hurts. We make ourselves use it when we would rather go to our fall-back reaction. The patience muscle grows when we persevere through trials of all kinds.

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Though I am poking fun at myself a lot here, the fact is I have worked very hard to become patient. I persevered through some awfully long painful labors with most of my children, so it was relatively easy to be somewhat patient when Ducky was born in about 12 hours. I do get a lot of questions, some as innocent as, "Are they all yours?" Others are as awful as, "You do know how this happens?" Most of the time, people are just curious and I want to leave them with the impression that I am a happy mother, because I am. So, I smile and try to answer kindly. Sometimes I am even successful. I have friends from all kinds of backgrounds and religious beliefs and I love them for who they are, even when our beliefs don't agree. I have learned to curb my bulldozer ways. I'm still not terribly patient when waiting for outcomes or results, but I am getting better.

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I suspect the problem is that people think they have to be a finished product of perfect patience before they start homeschooling. We forget that each of us is simply a work in progress. None of us is perfect in any way and neither are our children. It's probably good for your children to see you really mess up once in a while. It gives you an opportunity to show them how to ask forgiveness and for them to see you try to do better next time. Maybe homeschooling gives you more time and opportunity to work on it, or all those patient homeschooling parents you see are just faking it. That still counts as exercising the muscle!

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Since Apple Blossom is celebrating her fourth birthday, I thought I would show off photos of her little life. Unless otherwise noted, all photos were taken by the amazing Valorie Mundie of Hartwood Photography.

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