Most of our friends have children. Such is the lot of parents: so much of your life centers around those children that your friends tend to be the people you hang out with on the soccer sidelines or in the auditorium as your child warms up for a recital. They are also the ones that don’t roll their eyes and try to back away as you regale them with your latest potty training trials and tribulations.
We do, however, have a few childless friends. They are younger than us by a fair piece and may indeed join the parenting ranks at some point in the future. That is, if our children do not persuade them through their antics that the DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle really is the more attractive option.
I was speaking with the male half of one of these couples on Saturday. His girlfriend works in my husband’s studio and he had accompanied her for the day. Since the studio is at our house, they both see a lot of our children. They even babysit for us at times. They come over for game nights and hang out at kiln firings. You could almost call them family.
Hal had just done his unintentional Tasmanian Devil imitation as he spun through the studio and back out on his energetic run through the land of make-believe. I was preparing to wake Jane up so I could drop her off at softball and then pick up Daryl from his Destination Imagination practice. Our friend commented, “Yes, I’m pretty sure we will only have one child.”
I looked up at him as he continued, referring to his girlfriend, “She’s not as patient as you are.”
There are many adjectives that people have used to describe me over the years. Patient is not one of them and I told him so. “I’m not exactly known for my patience.”
“Well, you put on a good show then.”
It occurred to me as I pondered his statement over the following couple of days that it could be taken several different ways. He could have simply been commenting on his girlfriend’s extreme lack of patience, not on my abundance of it. It could be that he would view the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland to be in possession of a higher quantity of patience than her. She doesn’t strike me as particularly impatient though, so I don’t think this explanation fits.
It could be that he finds my children obnoxious and exhausting and completely out-of-control. The fact that they are still alive and I am still standing a testament to my good patience. There might be some truth to this but even my pessimistic personality won’t accept that my children are horribly more difficult than a standard collection of three young, intelligent, happy children.
That leaves the interpretation that I assumed the moment he spoke the words. He actually believes I exhibit motherly patience to a degree that impresses him. This stunned me. I think I pulled together enough wits to say thank you. I hope I did. I doubt he understands the power of his words.
Every mother loses her cool. Every mother explodes at one too many whines from a tired child or yet another neglectful performance of chores. It’s easy for me to dwell in those moments, to remember the monster from within bursting forth to scare my children.
His words reminded me that there are times that I take a deep breath and handle a crisis calmly. There are times when I listen attentively to a laundry list of Pokemon characters and their defining traits. Well, ok, there are times when I put on a good show of listening attentively to the laundry list. There are times when I handle a discipline situation from a controlled and reasoned point of view. There are times when I stand in the eye of the tornado and wring order out of chaos.
And best of all, these times happen in front of other people. They see it and they believe it’s the real me. And they are impressed. Of course, it is the real me, just as the monster is too. Two sides of the same coin. Perhaps realizing that people have noticed my patience, thin though it might have felt to me, will motivate me to flip to that side of the coin more often.