Why I’m patient with my kids — most of the time

The other day, I was carrying a bowl of grits to the living room and it slipped out of my grasp, fell on theKid
carpet and splattered everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. Some of it even landed on the keyboard of my laptop. It took me about 10 minutes to clean it all up. It occurred to me how upset I would have been if one of my kids had done what I just did: carried a bowl of porridge so carelessly. I would have been furious. And yet I somehow resisted giving myself a lecture. I didn’t go stand in front of the mirror and shout, "What’s wrong with you? How could you waste so much food?" I didn’t even give myself a timeout.

Parenting requires a lot of patience, a lot of self-control. Children will do so many things to rile you. They’ll spill their milk, draw on the walls, squeeze toothpaste into their hair — and that’s on a good day. I really believe they wake up in the morning and say to each other, "Bet you can’t get as many lectures as I do!"

I’m not a perfect dad, but I think I’m fairly patient, partly because I remember what it’s like to be a kid. I remember all the spankings and lectures I got, not just from my parents, but also from teachers, headmasters and others. I remember what it’s like to mess up, almost like it happened yesterday. Come to think of it … it did happen yesterday. And the day before. In some way or the other, I still mess up occasionally, whether it’s spilling grits in the living room, putting the whites with the coloreds in the washing machine, or dozing off when my wife is talking.

If you’re a parent, you need to keep reminding yourself what you were like as a kid. And if your memory is faulty, perhaps you need to have a chat with your parents. Perhaps you need to find out how Dad lost his hair and Mom got those wrinkles.

Photo by Hotshoe

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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