Patience doesn't get a very good rap nowadays. I keep hearing ads proclaiming, "Hungry? Why wait?" or "This offer won't last! Buy now, pay nothing till 2013!" And of course we know we must be suffering from a deficiency of patience when so many of us carry so much debt. Part of it is the system we live in -- it's almost impossible to save up for anything when inflation is so high, and how can you save up for a house when you're spending a fortune every month on rent? But a lot of consumer debt can be put down to a lack of patience.
Take food. My idea of good food means real, home-cooked, slow food. The trouble is that I grew up with someone else to cook it for me, and when I was hungry, there it was. Now I have to plan ahead. Before I get hungry, I have to decide what I'm going to eat and take the necessary steps to cook it. For awhile, it was just a matter of taking ten minutes to throw together some chicken and rice, while making a pinchy annoyed face when someone else (ahem) chose to make ramen noodles because actually making chicken and rice took too long. But lately I've been getting into slower food than that. I like baking bread from scratch. It's so delicious, but at the same time it's very hard to smell its delicious aroma and have to wait for it to come out of the oven. Fermented food takes even longer.
Of course we get better, more natural food when we're willing to wait for it. But I think the patience we learn while waiting for our food to be ready might also teach us something. Take this quote from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I read this past week (highly recommend, by the way, if you like to snort eggnog through your nose when reading about turkeys):
"We apply [patience and restraint]
selectively: browbeating our teenagers with the message that they should
wait for sex, for example. Only if they wait to experience intercourse
under the ideal circumstances will they realize its true value. 'Blah
blah blah' hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can't
even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now."
Insisting on instant gratification can become a very bad habit, and might lead us to compromise quality for immediacy when we really shouldn't.
Another situation desperately in need of patience is parenting. I get annoyed at people who proclaim that kids are spoiled because they can't tie their own shoes. It's not because they're spoiled. It's because no one took the time to teach them, and had the patience to wait for them to master it. Kids aren't potty trained till after three or even four nowadays, which is partly because of bad advice from some popular doctors (don't get me started), and partly because people expect potty-training to be done in three days or less. Potty-training takes a long time and a lot of patience. It can be a sign of patience to wait till the child is ready. But it can also be a sign of impatience to refuse to go through the work of potty-training until the child can pretty much train himself. (Disclaimer: kids can be trained at all sorts of ages. I am not an expert at potty-training. In fact I am pretty much the worst potty-trainer ever. But I don't think there's anything magical about waiting until a child can master the potty overnight.)
There never was any task so in need of patience as parenting. We have to be patient and wait for them to grow out of this or that stage. We have to wait for the screaming to stop. We have to wait for them to sleep through the night. We have to keep offering the same food they didn't like last time, and see if they will like it this time. Failing to be patient could result in resigning oneself to giving endless peanut butter sandwiches, dressing one's child for him until six because we can't wait for him to struggle with his own coat when it's time to go, bribing the child with candy to stop a tantrum, or hitting a child who hasn't yet learned to obey. Children grow like flowers, not like buildings. You can't hurry them up by working twice as hard.
I suppose this sounds a bit rant-y, and honestly I'm not trying to judge anyone else because I rarely see anyone else's kids anyway. I'm just realizing more and more that the easy, instant things I keep trying always fail miserably, and that the harder way -- whether getting off my butt to show my son what "come here" means, or holding him while he screams and saying, "No, I won't leave the room until you're ready, but you will have to lie down and go to sleep" -- usually turns out to be the better way.
Time for another slice of homemade bread and some fermented carrot slaw, and perhaps a few more re-reads of Art Dog.