Issue 41



Patience is the most elusive of the fatherly virtues.  It is also the one most often in demand.

True patience is often misunderstood.  For example, surviving through a fit of crying does not require patience; that requires intestinal fortitude and sheer willpower. The subtle difference is that patience is not about making it through a difficult period.  Patience as a virtue requires much more of us than this.  It requires that we accept things in their own time.

For example, today I caught my son Skylar playing wrong with one of his toys.  When I say wrong, I mean he was beating the floor with it.  “Let me show you how it works,” I told him as I carefully removed the bludgeoning end from his hand.  Then I pressed the red button that makes the toy ring like a phone.  Skylar immediately began to cry, so I handed him the telephone receiver back.  Gleefully he began to beat the floor again.

This was the first time in my life that I truly understood the saintly cost of being patient.  I used to think, naively, that patience was about standing on line and waiting my turn.  On a line, however, you can see how many people are in front of you, and you know when you are next.  With a child’s development, you never know when they are going to “get it.”

For example, Skylar was on the verge of crawling for three months.  He’d get up on his knees and rock back and forth.  Then he’d start to move, backwards.  Each time I thought about setting him back up and showing him how to crawl the right way.  While I’d like to be able to say that I held back because he should be allowed to learn in his own time, the reality is that I couldn’t remember just how one is supposed to crawl forward.

Children are frustrating.  They don’t understand that everything has a proper use.  And they don’t understand how much it bothers a parent that the box a $100 toy came in is more interesting than the toy itself.  Children also don’t understand that Daddy’s shoes aren’t for chewing, that the dog’s water dish isn’t for soaking your right leg, or that CDs don’t fit in your mouth. 

Sometimes my wife Rebecca acts very much like a child in that she doesn’t always remember what the proper use of something is. Today I came downstairs to find the family turkey baster half-melted in the electric frying pan.  I couldn’t believe it.  That turkey baster had been in the family for eighteen years before my mother passed it on to me.  I didn’t even get to use it for a single Thanksgiving before Rebecca thoughtlessly mutilated it in a bath of hot wax.  Just what the heck was she thinking?  And why was the frying pan filled with hot wax?

If Rebecca still has this much trouble understanding the proper use of objects at her age, I tremble at the thought of teaching her son.  How long will it take him to learn that he is supposed to color within the lines, that trees have green leaves, and that turkey basters are for basting turkeys?

Turkey baster in hand, I hunted the culprit down, ready to give her a word or two about proper respect for family heirlooms.  I heard some noise below me and knew she was down in her basement workshop.

As I burst into her room, I suddenly found myself without words.  Held on clothespin as it dried, I saw a beautiful wax batique Rebecca had just finished.  It showed the two of us – I’m assuming the Charleston Heston look-alike is supposed to be me – standing by a lake.  I remember that night vividly, and she captured it perfectly.  There were some hard lines, but the dyes ran into each other on the fabric and blended into wonderful new shades.  The trees weren’t green but purple and blue in the moonlight.  And the turkey baster, well, I beheld the turkey baster with a renewed sense of respect.  It had given its life for a wonderful work of art.

Living with Rebecca is like living with another child and thus requires just as much patience.  And in this, I have discovered that patience is a wonderful virtue.  For while patience is about giving someone I love the time, space, and freedom to learn in his or her own time, it’s also about giving myself the time to learn that there just might be a different way of enjoying life than I have already set my mind on.


Home ] Up ] Issue 42: Is That an Available Option? ]