I like Guns N’ Roses. Appetite For Destruction is one of the best albums of the 80s, and even the bloated Use Your Illusion double album has a lot of great songs on it. If you want, I’ll even defend parts of Chinese Democracy. What’s that? You don’t want? Fine.
As I try to cultivate my son’s appreciation for my favorite music, there is a fair amount of the GnR catalog I will avoid until he’s older. But even the staunchest GnR hater probably enjoys whistling along with “Patience.”
I’ve been trying to teach my son to whistle that tune, which is basically impossible. But it’s not as impossible as teaching him the actual concept of patience.
I wrote last week about whining and as we enter the terrible twos, we’ve been grappling with trying to balance his development with some discipline. We’re trying to teach him how to act on a granular, micro, daily-life-of-a-toddler level, but we also need to lay the baseline for the development of a well-behaved human being who understands why he shouldn’t throw his food or swat at his parents or launch into a tantrum.
Central to this education is the concept of patience. And I think I’m going to run out of it long before he grasps what it means.
He sees something in my hands and he wants it immediately. He catches a glimpse of something when I open the refrigerator door and he wants it immediately. He sees something on TV and he wants it immediately. He sees the computer or the remote control or my iPhone and he wants it immediately. He hears us say the word “swings” or “slide” and he wants to go to the playground immediately.
It’s why parents speak in whispers and code. HE’S ALWAYS LISTENING, ready to pounce.
He wants everything immediately, all the time. And when he doesn’t get it, he goes on the offensive. He uses the same tactics the military uses against prisoners – loud, repetitive noises; aggressive urination; even physical abuse.
In junior high, I had a teacher who used to rail against “instant gratification,” which she viewed as a generational issue. And that was 25 years ago. I can’t possibly imagine what she would make of today’s students, with their iPhones and iPads and texting and all the other technology that makes waiting not only the hardest part, but just about obsolete.
My son’s only two, and while he has an inexplicable affinity for technology (and has even before he could walk), his patience-based issues aren’t about the advances of the new millennium or a crumbling of American discipline and decency or anything like that. They are simply about the fact that he’s only two, and the concept of patience is as foreign to him as the concept of using a toilet.
“Why would I use a toilet when I am actually shitting during this sentence?” is the same idea as “Why would I be patient when I want what I want right now and eventually someone will give it to me?”
But no. We won’t succumb to his demands. Not anymore. We cried it out! We can teach him some patience.
Unfortunately we don’t always practice it ourselves. Especially when I’m running errands with an eagle-eyed toddler who can spot a tiny image of logo on a bag of cookies from fifteen grocery store aisles away and then spends the next thirty minutes saying the word “Elmo” over and over until his impatience causes me lose my patience. And that sucks. Because never is patience more important then when you’re interacting with your kids.
Adults sometimes forget the lessons they learned in kindergarten. As your daily stresses build up, general comportment can fall by the wayside. Sure, maybe we’re spoiled now too, maybe a lot of the boorish behavior we all encounter every day is a result of new technology providing shortcuts faster than our manners can keep up. But some of it is a result of people being assholes.
My wife often worries that we aren’t being tough enough with him, that if we don’t set limits now, and begin enforcing rules and instilling the proper behavior now, we’ll end up with one of those jerks who throws a fit at Starbucks when his latte takes too long. Or that guy that leans on his horn when you’re stopped in front of him at a crosswalk.
Being patient builds character and it’s just plain courteous. Wait your turn. Bide your time. All things come to those who wait. And nowhere is the necessity for and the struggle with patience more evident than in the parent/child relationship.
I’m not perfect, but I’m better than my kid. So it’s up to me to teach him patience, and one day I’ll succeed. Then I’ll teach him how to whistle along with “Patience,” and eventually I’ll even find a bar with a karaoke catalog that includes “Get in the Ring” so I can vent about by screaming at Mick Wall from Kerrang!
I can wait. Hopefully, soon, my son will learn to too.