is the most elusive of the fatherly virtues. It is also the one most
often in demand.
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.
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.
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 childs development, you never know when they are going to get
example, Skylar was on the verge of crawling for three months.
Hed get up on his knees and rock back and forth. Then hed
start to move, backwards. Each time I thought about setting him back
up and showing him how to crawl the right way. While Id 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 couldnt remember just how one is
supposed to crawl forward.
are frustrating. They dont understand that everything has a
proper use. And they dont understand how much it bothers a parent
that the box a $100 toy came in is more interesting than the toy itself.
Children also dont understand that Daddys shoes arent for
chewing, that the dogs water dish isnt for soaking your right leg,
or that CDs dont fit in your mouth.
my wife Rebecca acts very much like a child in that she doesnt 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 couldnt believe it. That turkey baster had been in the family
for eighteen years before my mother passed it on to me. I didnt
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?
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
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.
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 Im 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 werent 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.
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, its 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.