Tonight, brings with it the rehashing of many, many failures on the ‘farm’ front… but alongside that is a success on the mom front. (If it starts to sound like I’m bragging at any point, read between the lines and you will find my admission otherwise.) In that, despite feeling dispirited from so many things gone wrong, despite an excessively and unusually fussy baby-just now back to bed and the reason why I’m posting despite the late hour-, despite the very active behavior of three ‘trapped indoors by the cold’ children, and a few newly recurring issues in behavior, oh…and being asked WAY too many times to help my son play Zack and Wikki which I’ve been tired of since we played it LAST winter… and a supper followed by a bedtime, both of which were interrupted by loudness, craziness and infant cries… and a few other minor ‘momoyances’ (these are defined as things which aren’t real problems but bug moms anyway). Despite it taking until 1PM to actually get the load I started at 8:30AM to get DONE in the washer so that I could move it to the dryer when I thought by getting started early I was ahead of the game.. peripheral, but related, issue…

Despite all these things, I spoke more gently to my children than I have under the same conditions in times past. Even when I was truthfully feeling VERY impatient with child-related situations it came out non-grumpy. I can’t take the credit for this, but it was a very happy, happy feeling to get everyone into bed and handle the ‘so tired if I shut up I’ll go to sleep’ chatter with what in my case can only be described as a freakishly huge amount of poise (since usually this type of day and/or the delayed bedtime attempt ends with escalation in voice and contortion of face on my part… see admission of usual non-admirable practices as promised and between curvy lines, no less!)

Happy time.

All that has almost nothing to do with this note.

Almost nothing. But before I explain how this fits in, first I have to explain “The Difference”.

There is a difference between digging DOWN to get to the opening in your burn barrel and struggling to get a match to flame long enough and reveling in the challenge only to succeed in the end at finally ridding your kitchen of the trash that has built up and the act of beginning to do many hard things in a row only to fail or meet excessive frustration in the end. Despite my efforts today, my cattle have only snow to drink this evening and my poultry will be out of food roughly a half hour after they awake in the morning. And a few other less-pressing issues remain unresolved as well. The number of steps it took for me to fail to remedy only those two is excessive. If only failing were a quicker process… but if it were, then the rest of what I am planning to write would be more meaningless than it already is.

All of these things we will be able to remedy tomorrow one way or another so don’t worry too much about the animals. They will get taken care of soon enough to spare them any real discomfort, but tonight after surviving afternoon chores which –even with all our crazy weather- usually takes relatively little time suddenly took a lot of time for me to fail at and will require more attempts tomorrow…

There’s the difference:

Hard work = success – positive result

versus

Hard work = initial failure and/or total failure – negative result

Several years ago, I could only handle the first option. The second option would have had me tucking my tail and whimpering. (okay, some days I still do that for awhile… I confess… but the whimpering is where it would have ended several years ago, no retries, just reroutes!) Even more years ago than THAT, the first part of either option would have had me avoiding it. Childish, I know. (oh wait.. in some areas and on some days, I still do that, too!)

Today, after an hour or more spent working towards a desired end result and getting nothing accomplished except being attacked by the rooster for no other reason than to add insult to injury, I wanted to do that again…. The whimpering, not the rooster fight! (by the way, if you toss something in the other side of the pen to get the chickens out of the road, and the rooster finds out it was a trick and not actually a tasty treat, he gets a little testy.. just fair warning!) I WAS whining in my head, mind you…, for awhile. And had I not started thinking about the effect this lousy attitude would soon have on the persons INSIDE the house, this whole evening would have been a bust for no other reason than that I was frustrated. (again, read the implied admission that this blowing a whole evening due to unrelated frustration has happened… OFTEN… today was an exception – which is nothing I’m able to brag about, but something I am definitely pleased with)

Aggravated. Irritated. Tired. Impatient. Cold. Annoyed. Rightfully so??? Perhaps.

Probably not.

After all, can we truly expect our lives to be all positive results? That was never promised on MY birth certificate anyway (I know, I checked.. nowhere can I find a “Hard work = positive results/tangible reward” clause. NUTS!! There goes my lawsuit against the world for breaking contract! In today’s judicial system I could have won, too!)

So the point of all this is THIS:

This tendency of mine to whine when things don’t end the way I want them to. When my efforts yield nothing (though some optimists would add “but character”). When my hard work gets me nothing but more hard work that takes me nowhere which was the case today…

This tendency of mine to whine is exactly why I am trying to train children who know how to handle hard things with a good attitude. “Yes, five year old, I do know how frustrating it is when you’re trying to put your clothes away and they keep falling off the hanger. But I want you to put them right back on the hanger and keep at it till they stay, and I bet you can do it without whining! This time try buttoning the top button.” “Four year old, I know that your very nature insists that you be angry and/or emotionally distraught the first time you even glimpse a wall of any size, shape, color, flavor, width or construction material between you and what you want. Yes, that particular one inch wall made of packing peanuts ten feet from you must be terribly irritating. Instead of giving up, whining, pouting and throwing a tantrum while stomping your beautiful foot, why not take a breath and try again. Let’s figure out a way around, over or through it! And only if we can’t find a better option will I require you to find a different direction and be happy about it.” “Yes, two year old, we DO need to clean up the spill completely. I know you wanted to be finished with the easy part of tossing a paper towel on it and run off to play, but we actually have to get it ALL wiped UP and throw it away! Don’t pout and go “UHHH” about it.” “Yes, I do know how frustrating it is to deal with others who aren’t treating you kindly. Let’s find a good solution for that. No, don’t sulk about it, let’s not grumble, let’s work together to get along.”

Patience. Persistence. You know, those traits you did NOT naturally inherit from me.

And while I teach it to them, I end up preaching it to me. ‘You scold your second born for grumping at the kitten when it doesn’t want held anymore, but look at you! Yes that same kitten is in your road… again.. perpetually… on the hay you’re trying to throw to the cows and in the coop when you’ve just climbed back over the bottom door onto the drift and have to go in and get it and climb out again… and again… and again… (there are FOUR kittens, you understand and they ALL follow me at chore time) Yes, it is walking UNDER your feet in the dark room you’re trying to cross so that you can FINALLY get finished with the last chore and get in out of the cold and away from the dispiriting sense of ‘abort, retry, fail?’ that has settled over all of your attempts this evening.’

Patience. Persistence. Steady now!

Because when the kiddos grow up, I don’t want them to battle to keep words like: “That’s IT, I’ve HAD it!” and “This is just the last straw.” or "I can’t take it anymore!" And “I should just go back to bed; this day sucks!” INSIDE their heads and out of their hearts which is a battle I lose all too often considering that I’m legally an adult a few years over. Actually, I don’t even want those thoughts to ENTER their heads (which means I should, perhaps, at least keep them out of my mouth???) Instead, I want thoughts like… well I wonder if THIS will work. Well, I’ll try again tomorrow. I wonder if ____ has an idea. I know this problem can be solved if I work on it long enough. There’s got to be a lesson in this glorious mess for me somewhere. Well, our dog ran away, our savings are depleted, I’m turning turquoise, the goldfish is actually just bronze and our house is burning down, but we’re all still here and we’ll work hard and make another go at this crazy thing called life.

In the original version of Pinocchio (highly recommended as a read-aloud) Gepetto and most of the other wise characters Pinocchio meets end up saying, “We must have patience.” Whether it was referring to work, enduring hardship, studies, being kind… the persistence/good attitude required was often referred to with the phrase: We/you/I "must have patience.”

It is a common joke that you should never pray for patience… or maybe I’m the only one who says that on a regular basis… but maybe we should. And maybe we should accept all the lessons we get in it cheerfully. “Well, at least today is a good day to exercise patience!”

Now THAT is something I wouldn’t mind hearing come out of my mouth.
Brain, please reroute: “I’ve about had it!” to “Well, now is a good time to exercise patience.”

If only the brain downloads in Matrix were reality…

In the meantime, here’s hoping that our children start out even farther ahead of the game than the positive aspects of our upbringing took us!

Somewhere within its pages, a very wise Book says: “And do not grow weary of doing good, for in due time you will reap if you faint not.”

Here’s to not fainting. Here’s to practicing ourselves what our kids need to learn. And until I’m actually able to do that on a consistent basis rather than being overly awed with the rare occassions I succeed at doing so???

“We must have patience.”

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