As I stood in line at the bank, waiting calmly and quietly in front of a long line of customers, I realized that over my 26 years, I had learned a lot of patience. I had learned how to keep my cool when confronted with the inevitable aspects of daily life that require us to exercise our good manners and tolerance – stuck in traffic, waiting in fast food drive-thru lines in the heat of summer, any and all visits to the Secretary of State.
I recall my days as a teenager, when patience was a virtue I had not yet acquired. I could not refrain from loudly sighing, grumbling, and anxiously shifting my weight from one foot to another whenever I was forced to stand in one place for any amount of time. I was convinced the entire world was against me in these moments, plotting and watching, simply to see how angry I would become. I knew someone somewhere had to be enjoying my annoyance.
It took me years to overcome this aspect of my personality. I recall moments when my mother’s face grew red and apologetic with my disrespectful attitude toward our family eye doctor, rolling my eyes whenever he spoke to me and addressing him with vexation dripping from my lips, being exaggeratedly sweet to his nurses to more clearly emphasis my displeasure with him.
As the tiny bump over my stomach continues to grow, where lungs and veins and heart are all developing and learning how to function inside my own body without guidance from me, I wonder how long it will take my son or daughter to learn the lessons I have learned. Will they imitate me in my newfound patience and not need to go through years of bad habits and attitudes? What will I recognize in them, what habits will they learn from me, what temperaments will they inherit?
Yet I have to be honest in what I’m asking in these questions. Is my desire to form and mold the perfectly mannered, socially graceful, competent and capable child overpowering my desire to let them learn at their own pace, from their own mistakes, and come to their own realizations?
I recall feeling intensely angry with myself whenever I would disappoint my parents, or lose in some competition, or even make some natural human error, such as tripping over a rug or knocking over a glass of water. I would cry, whine, become furious with myself. I hated myself in those moments. Eventually I was able to come to terms with who I am. I slowly learned to forgive myself, to not take life too seriously, to slow down if I was moving too fast.
I have to force myself to remember the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned through experiencing those mistakes. It wouldn’t be fair to my child to deny them those experiences. Nor deny them the realization that took me years to acknowledge: that nobody’s perfect.