Have a little faith

Whenever people commend me for my patience, I want to laugh uproariously. I am very good at acting patient, but I don’t often feel patient. In fact, parenting a three-year-old regularly makes me feel quite the opposite of patient. But I’m really trying, and I’m learning to have more faith in others, and in myself.

Often when I introduce a new toy or activity to Nina, I find myself fretting about the amount of time it takes her to catch on. How many times do I have to give the same instructions? How can she be bored already? When is she going to figure this out? Why am I ruining the fun by being so impatient? (Thankfully, I am good at faking patience or Nina would probably have a serious complex about trying new things.)

If Nina is too frustrated, often we will put away the new thing and return to something more familiar, and more comfortable for both of us. And it always happens that some time, a little bit down the road, the toy or activity is taken out again. And suddenly it is a revelation. The best toy ever, and maybe even something that gives me a few minutes to sit and relax. She is (suddenly, it seems) more dextrous, more interested, better at counting or taking turns. And I feel foolish for having lost faith in her so quickly, because she always catches on in her own time.

I’m two months into a new job, and I have to keep telling myself the same thing.

Make a mistake. Learn from it. Do better next time. It isn’t the end of the world.

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Love you buckets

Have you read “Have you filled a bucket today?” If not, you must. Share it with your children and your spouses and your friends. It can be found in the kids’ section at Chapters, but it isn’t just for kids. A respected colleague shared it with me recently, and it’s a gem. The gist of the story is that everyone has an invisible bucket that carries their good feelings, and that we can fill each other’s buckets (and in doing so, fill our own) by being kind to others and treating them well. People who hurt others “dip” good feelings from their victim’s bucket, but they cannot fill their own buckets with “stolen” good feelings.

Nina and I read “bucket” last night, and I know that she lacks some of the sophistication required to fully grasp what the book is offering. But she was so interested. She asked lots of questions, and she was amazed at the idea that she has the power to influence the world around her. Even at the tender age of three, she wants to be a good girl and she looks to me for reassurance about her goodness. (She has been trying her hardest to fill my bucket with non-stop kisses and “I love you’s.”)

I worry that as Nina is exposed to more of the world, she will become cynical, and that she will stop believing that there is good in the world. And by extension, that there is no value in trying to be good considering all of the terrible things we see and hear daily. I have heard it said by far too many people, that it is better to be a real jerk than a fake nice person. Are those the only two choices anymore? Characters like House or Lucille Bluth or Frank Underwood are deliciously cruel, and fun to watch on TV. But they are not real people. It is possible to tell the truth, even a difficult truth, without being cruel. And it is possible to be nice without getting walked on. It takes patience….it is an art.

I was bullied as a child, and it was dehumanizing. As an adult, I have learned a lot about many of the people who bullied me as kids. Many of them were living their own struggles – broken homes, chronically unemployed or abusive or absent parents, poverty. Even as a target for merciless bullying, I wouldn’t have traded my circumstances for theirs. A rough life doesn’t excuse bullying, but if some of those issues had been rooted out by the grown-ups around us, maybe some of their victims could have been spared. I’m very curious about what kind of parents my bullies have turned out to be, and whether they even realize that they were bullies at all.

As an adult, I have also been bullied. It looks different, but feels pretty much the same. It took a long time to realize what was happening, and even longer still for me to speak up about it. It has stopped but the feelings linger. The distrust, the dissection of every word to check for double-meanings, and the shame of being victimized once again. But I’m determined to move past it, because people are essentially good. And filling buckets is a worthy endeavor.