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Patience as a Parenting Superpower

The Surprising Superpower You Didn't Know You Had

I can think of a whole list of superpowers that would help me out where parenting is concerned. Invisibility, for one thing, would allow me to discern who really "started it." Warp speed would come in handy when someone inevitably knocks over that glass of milk at dinner or when a chubby-legged toddler runs straight for the road. And superhuman strength would make carrying our bazillion dollars' worth of weekly groceries a cinch (all in one trip, naturally). Of course, I don't possess any of these — no parent does. But we do have one superpower that we don't give ourselves nearly enough credit for having: PATIENCE.

I know what you're thinking — I'm exaggerating. Patience a superpower? But stop to consider for a moment how difficult being patient actually is. And how many times a day, a week, a month that we have to drum up as much of it as we can . . . sometimes, it seems, from a nearly-depleted supply. We may consider ourselves to be generally impatient people — I mean, Amazon Prime features one-day shipping for a reason — but we need to give ourselves a collective pat on the back. We possess much more patience than we give ourselves credit for.

We possess much more patience than we give ourselves credit for.

This superpower first develops during pregnancy. Think about it: nine months is an extremely long time. We have to wait for the better part of a year to meet our babies. If someone showed me the most awesome Pinterest project ever and then said, "This will take you approximately nine months to make," I'd laugh and start searching online to buy it ready-made.

Projects are tiny facets of our lives; we work on them for a little bit when we have time, then put them aside until our next few free moments, focusing entirely on other things in between.

But pregnancy is an entirely different story — it's a "project" we literally can't put down. We're working on it, worrying about it, and trying to improve it from the time we wake up in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night. There's nothing we can do to speed up the process, so right from the start we are taught that there are some things that just can't be rushed — especially where parenting is concerned.

The demand for patience doesn't stop when the baby is born. We are patient with them as they learn to roll over and to sit up. We're patient as they learn to walk, helping them up when they fall, guiding them again and again as they wobble around on unsteady little legs. We're patient as they learn to talk, repeating sounds and words until they're able to say them; as they learn to eat, moving slowly from liquids to solids and awkwardly learning to get the food to their mouths. And that's just in infancy.

In toddlerhood, patience becomes a whole new ballgame as they enter the "I do it myself" stage. Their brains think they can handle everything; their pudgy fingers and underdeveloped fine motor skills say otherwise. But they try anyway — attempting to stuff feet into shoes, painstakingly fumbling with buttons and zippers, tugging on seat belts, wailing in frustration as they fail over and over again. (Yet heaven forbid we dare to offer assistance.)

There's potty training, where we perch them on the porcelain throne and twiddle our thumbs while they do everything but poop and pee — and then clean up seemingly endless messes as they do their business everywhere besides in the toilet, a process that sometimes drags on for months.

We patiently try to decode what they're saying when they mispronounce words or come up with unique phrases ("Exactly which one is your 'thumb toe,' sweetheart?"), and translate for them when they speak to others. We sit through yet another episode of Dora the Explorer. We slow our pace when they insist on walking, and wait for them to go to sleep through "one more story" and "one more drink" at least five times every night — even when we can practically hear the couch calling our name.

Expecting yourself to have more patience is like expecting a runner to stop mid-marathon for an aerobics class.

We look over their shoulders, biting back our tongues as they sound out words in books. We teach them to tie shoes and ride bikes. We watch as they work out math problems, erase them, and work them out again. We listen to long, convoluted stories about friends, TV shows, and Minecraft, whether we're interested in the subject matter or not. As they get older, we are patient through the attitude and eye rolls, watch them make mistakes (mostly without saying "I told you so"), and help them through the aftermath of said mistakes, even though we warned them in the first place.

Patience. You may not feel like you possess nearly enough of it. You may feel it wearing dangerously thin and berate yourself for not being better at keeping it. But if you stop to consider how much patience you actually do have — and have sustained, every single day, for weeks and months and years — it's pretty impressive. Expecting yourself to have more is like expecting a runner to stop mid-marathon for an aerobics class.

So the next time you're gritting your teeth and trying to ignore that twitch in your eye, remember this: patience is a superpower. Just give your invisible cape a confident toss, take a deep breath, and keep on being the hero you've been all along.

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