Two friends have a pillow in their home embroidered with the words:
“Insanity is inherited—you get it from your children.”
Parenting is arguably one of the most challenging—if not the most challenging—job a human being can undertake. There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large parenting will challenge one’s physical, mental, and emotional resources like no other endeavor. When it comes to patience, parenting will offer an unparalleled opportunity to practice again and again.
In the early weeks of life with a new arrival, one may search for previously unused adjectives to describe a depth of fatigue hitherto unimagined. Yet for most of us, more often than not, the frustration, turmoil, and exhaustion are worth it because the joys outweigh the difficulties. Just when we think we cannot get through another moment, the infant offers her first smile. When it seems that having this baby was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made, he looks at you and utters, “Mama.” The precious, indescribable moments that begin from the newborn’s earliest days can bring incomparable joy, or at least enough pleasure that we resist offering them on eBay when our patience becomes shredded.
You survive their “terrible twos” and make it to their teens when all you have to contend with is drugs, alcohol, and sex. They finish their schooling and you’re almost there—you’ve almost completed the task. Then you learn, perhaps dramatically, that you never complete the task. You are a parent. Period. Till death do you part—and perhaps even afterward—who knows?
Did you ever ask the parent of a three-month-old how things are going, and they replied, “Really well, he’s been sleeping through the night. He’s such a good baby.” I wonder when it was determined that a baby who sleeps a lot is good? Which of course raises the question of whether a baby who doesn’t sleep much is bad. It seems an odd way to evaluate a child. I wonder if research has been done on whether those who slept a lot as babies grew up to become saints, or philanthropists, while those who had trouble sleeping have tended to become residents in our state penitentiaries.
When we teach a child to be truthful we offer them the gift of an ethical life. When we teach a child to take responsibility for their actions we offer them the gift of an honorable life. When we teach a child patience we offer them the gift of a dignified life.
The lotus fights its way through muck and mud to break through the surface of the water and reveal its remarkable beauty. The greatest wines come from vines that have struggled for decades just to survive. When we plant seeds we need to tend to them lovingly. We often can’t see any progress and the stems can appear feeble and worthless. Our work is to provide a favorable environment for the process to unfold. We practice kindness, patience, and equanimity. If we create the conditions that develop goodness, goodness will surely bloom. Be patient. The precious plant needs the warmth of the sun and the day is only now dawning.
Allan Lokos’ latest book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, was released on January, 5, 2012. He is also the author of Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. Allan is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tricycle Magazine, The Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Back Stage, and Audacious Creativity: 30 Ways to Liberate Your Soulful Creative Energy. He has taught at Columbia University Teachers College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Marymount College, The Rubin Museum, New York Insight Meditation Center, The New York Open Center, Tibet House USA, and Insight Meditation Community of Washington. For more on Allan, please visit his website, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.