“All you need is patience -and that’s what makes it so hard.”
The start of another school year brings with it a sense of renewal. For parents and children it offers a clean slate. It’s like our own little New Year’s day. So even though I’ve never been particularly successful in sticking to them in the past, I thought I would make a new (school) year’s resolution and encourage all parents to do the same.
Along with that clean slate, comes some pretty significant changes in our daily routine. Things seem to get busier in a hurry -especially for our children. Time, which just a couple of months ago seemed an almost inexhaustible resource, is suddenly in short supply. Seems like a good place to start for a new year’s resolution.
It’s easy to resolve to spend more time with our children. We could even take it a step further and make it “quality” time. To me that’s too broad -and for most parents, quality time is always a priority anyway. A resolution like that would be redundant. So my new (school) year’s resolution is to give my child more time. That’s very different from making my own time to be with them -and frankly, much harder.
“We are high speed internet. Our children are dial-up.”
You may be an incredibly patient person. If so, this resolution will be no sweat. I consider myself fairly patient. I’ve probably used the horn on my car less than 5 times in my life. I never peek at my Christmas gifts under the tree. Most of the time, I’ve got that tolerance for waiting. Most of the time. But giving time to your child requires a concerted effort. Fortunately, we all have plenty of relevant experience in this area. Perhaps even more than we realize.
Most of us remember life before the internet. When the world-wide web emerged on the scene we used dial-up connection and were happy for the opportunity. With no frame of reference, waiting 3 minutes for a web page to load seemed perfectly reasonable. Today, 3 minutes is an eternity when it comes to computers. So imagine suddenly going back to dial up. Excruciating.
The analogy applies perfectly to the contrast between parent and child. We are faster and more efficient. We can anticipate, multi-task, start and finish things (usually). We get things done. We are high speed internet. Our children are dial-up.
So watching your child put both feet into the same pant leg 4 times in a row is, naturally, painful. The difference between us makes the conflict unavoidable, but we must give them this time. That’s where this resolution comes in. To make it stick, maybe we add a mantra: “It’s o.k. to be dial-up.” In fact, for children it’s a good thing! It may also help to know that your child is just as happy to be dial-up as we were to use it back in 1992.
Back then, it took us much longer to recognize the bottom half of that web page was just never going to show up. This extra minute or two of delay allowed us to maintain hope just a little bit longer. In the same way, each time the child misses that pant leg, he still holds onto a sense of certainty that he’ll succeed -even if he won’t. But instead of letting him experience that hope, we often jump in to make sure he gets it right. That way he doesn’t struggle -and just as importantly, we don’t have to see him struggle. That way we can get on with the day -on to the next chance to interfere with his efforts.
The struggle to put on pants is something we’ve all experienced, but it can be a metaphor for a million other little moments in your chlid’s life that can be solved with time. In some instances, giving this kind of time to a child may require more patience than we can muster. Don’t be too hard on yourself when that happens. It doesn’t mean we have failed to live up to our resolution. This is a realistic resolution. It is not the same as the failed gym membership, where every missed opportunity makes it harder to come back. In our resolution, even those moments where our patience runs thin can be useful in some way -if only to help us refine the skill. Just remember that without dial up, none of us would be high speed.