Monday, February 14, 2011

Be Patient Cookie Monster

We have a book in our house called Be Patient Cookie Monster. It's a short book that covers the basics of patience. In the book, Cookie Monster goes to the bakery to get cookies but the cookies aren't ready yet. Cookie Monster doesn't like the fact that he has to wait for the cookies, so Elmo, Big Bird and Abby take turns showing Cookie Monster how they are patient. Elmo counts groceries in the grocery cart, Big Bird practices his ABC's, and Abby thinks of rhyming words. By the end of the book, Cookie Monster decides he will think of his favorite foods, and just as he starts to think of them the cookies are ready.

I've heard many parents claim that having children taught them patience. I would really love to know their secret because the only thing having children has taught me about patience is how much respect I have for those people who actually have patience. I have never been a patient person, and if anything I think I have less patience now than I did before having children.

I'm in the midst of potty training Alec, and if this isn't a test of patience I don't know what is. Alec is a smart kid, so I know he "knows" what he is supposed to do. And actually everything went really well for a few days. He very quickly caught on to going "#1" in the potty, and we only had a day or two of a few accidents before he started letting me know when he had to go. It's the "#2" that started becoming the challenge. After only two days of potty training, Alec told me he had to go "poo-stinky." I took him to the potty, he went, and I thought I had the easiest potty trained kid in the world. I should have known it was too good to be true. The next day, Alec decided to boycott going #2. Not just in the potty, but altogether. See, he understood that he wasn't supposed to go in his underwear or pull-up, but he didn't want to go on the potty either. So when he got the feeling, he would frantically yell "Eeee! Eeee!" and clench his cheeks together (and I'm not talking about the cheeks on his face). By the end of the day, all the clenching in the world wasn't going to stand in the way of nature running it's course. So four pairs of underwear later Alec felt much better, although disappointed that he wasn't going to get his sticker at the end of the day for having no accidents.

The next day, after about our sixth run to the bathroom following "Eeee! Eeee!", I finally felt my patience giving. Considering I had already made it through five unproductive trips in under an hour, I was pretty proud of myself for being patient as long as I had. But the sixth time was it. I even warned Alec that I was losing my patience. Of course that went in one ear and out the other, just like any other time I try to reason with a 3-year-old. I think the families in the next development probably saw the steam that came out of my head. After a very well censored yelling fit (which I think also went in one ear and out the other), Alec looked at me and said, "I not need to go." So I did what I think any sensible mother would have done. I looked at him and said "You do too have to go!" I know, very mature. This, of course, was followed by a chorus of "no, no, no, no, no, I NOT need to go", including tears and everything. This child really knows how to pull out all the stops. By this point I was about ready to burst a blood vessel, so I picked Alec up, carried him to his room and plopped him on his bed while I took a few minutes to cool off.

When my blood had returned to a slow simmer I went in to retrieve Alec, who was calmly playing with his stuffed animals. We made amends and continued about our day, which was shortly interrupted by some more "Eeee! Eeee!'s". Finally, about two hours later, the "Eeee! Eeee's" became very close together and after something like our 50th trip to the potty (I think I lost track around trip 27 or 28) we had success.

The next few days were each an improvement over the day before, and now he is doing much better and there are considerably less "Eeee! Eeee!'s". He has even gotten his five stickers that he needed for his reward of going to a new play place that opened near us.

I can't say that I'm proud of my lack of patience, but I almost have to wonder if it actually helped in this situation. If I were a nurturing mother who had the patience to calmly take Alec to the potty every 10 minutes for weeks on end, it may have taken Alec months instead of less than two weeks to get better at going to the potty. Sure, I can be a loving, caring mother when I want to be. But I can also stand my ground, and my kids definitely know when I mean business.

As much as I'd like to say that having children has taught me patience, I'm pretty sure I will always be the person who is yelling at the car in front of me in stopped traffic, glaring at the nice granny who has parked her grocery cart right in front of the cereal that I need to get, tapping my foot and sighing while the person in front of me at the coffee shop methodically counts out exact change for their order, and losing my temper when my kids have pushed my last button. I think it's going to take more than reading about a blue monster waiting for cookies for me to learn patience.

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