Updated: Aug 3, 2019
A little bit of extra patience goes a long way with kids. The plants can help teach us how to be a better parent.
You know the feeling. When you’re trying to complete a simple task, like writing a sentence, or flambéing a christmas pudding, and your child is demanding something of you. Over, and over, and over, and over. It’s the high-pitched squeaking background music to your attempt at focus. Your nerves unravel. Just as your child’s desperation peaks, a crescendo of yelling erupts from below your furrowed brow.
Or maybe you got up on the wrong side of the bed, and while you’re doing the dishes your partner asks you an innocent question. “Have you seen my toenail clippers?” The tone of your response is so nasty that it singes the nosehairs of everyone in the room.
Impatience is the feeling that something in your environment is so outstandingly WRONG. You might be experiencing sensory overload, or the sensation of a trap door slamming shut in your chest.
Patience is when there is room to spare within you. Sometimes conditions are perfect, and we walk in a state of grace without effort. Sometimes, we need to pry the wretched trap door open with our fingernails just to get a little air.
That space within us is always there, whether we can find it in the moment or not. Certain circumstances have a big role to play in how easy patience is to find, mainly, how much we’ve slept, whether we’ve drunk enough water, or eaten enough food.
Whether or not circumstances are in my favor, there are a few mantras that have helped me locate a little extra patience under pressure.
Tantrums are a good sign
Janet Lansbury taught me this. If my kid is throwing a tantrum, he is expressing his needs to me. If I am able to meet his emotions without judgement, and present a calm, cool, and collected front, I am telling him that it’s safe to have big emotions in my presence. I can let him know that I see what he's going through, and ask him what his needs are. “Are you feeling sad?” “Did that hurt?” “Do you need to eat some food?” “Do you need to snuggle?” “I hear you, but I need to finish flambéing this pudding.”
[PSA: I do not flambé anything.]
Overwhelm is a choice
Another favorite mantra for these moments is one I heard from Marie Forleo. “Overwhelm is a choice.” When I'm feeling overwhelmed, it’s because my head is full of distractions, to-dos, shoulds, and worries. Our social media, news cycle, 10 browsers open at once culture sets us up for this. But I am in charge of what I pay attention to! Marie has said "You can only do one thing fully at a time."
When I “should” be walking out the front door, and instead my son is running around the house half naked, everything I'm about to be late for is screaming in my mind. If I lose my patience in that moment, it may take even longer to leave home than if I just focus. One sock at a time. Breathe. Feel the wool of the sock in my hands.
Until recently, meditation sounded to me like a nice idea in theory, but I didn’t think I was one of those people who could actually pull it off. Trying to sit quietly and stop my monkey mind was laughable. But then I found free guided meditations. It turns out that a little pep talk, some mood music, a timer, and a commitment to myself were what it took to turn me into a meditator.
Meditation is the practice of finding space in your mind. And when you practice that, the space becomes abundant pretty fast. The feeling of grace and ability to focus is just so much more accessible. I don’t know how many times I had to be told to meditate before I actually started. It took years. Everyone heals at their own pace. If you haven’t started yet, I’m here to join the chorus of people and scientific evidence telling you: Meditation works. It helps with everything. You can do it, friend!
Herbs for Patience
Hawthorn, Crataegus spp.
If meditation is about finding space in your mind, Hawthorn helps you find space in your heart. This herb is commonly used for actual physiological problems with the heart and circulatory system, to great effect. But it is a powerful protector of the energetic heart as well (are the physical and emotional heart two different things? That's debatable). Science has shown us that the magnetic field emanating from the heart spans 3 feet beyond the borders of our body in all directions, and that it is over 100 times stronger than the field generated by the brain. (The Heart Math Institute). Our bodies can sense the electricity of another person's heart from that distance, and our own heart adjusts to theirs. Hawthorn helps us open our hearts to the world, but also maintain healthy boundaries. Have you ever been stabbed by a Hawthorn thorn? They are not to be messed with.
Milky Oats, Avena sativa
Milky Oats is like the nectar of life for the nervous system. It's full of nutrients that the nervous system loves, and it has the ability to repair damaged and literally frayed nerves. The milky substance that oat seeds (yep, those same oats that are in your breakfast bowl) produce is cooling, moistening, and soothing. I have been taking a tincture of fresh Milky Oats ever since my son was born, and boy can I tell if I've been out of that tincture for a while. It just helps me get through life. It works brilliantly both in moments of acute stress, and taken regularly over time.
Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera
This traditional Ayurvedic herb from the nightshade family belongs to a class of herbs called "adaptogens." Adaptogens work with the endocrine system to help our bodies deal with stress. Some adaptogens might produce an immediate feeling of increased energy, and are prone to being misused for their stimulating properties. Ashwagandha isn't like that, it has more of a sustainable, slow-burn effect. It can also help us get better sleep when taken before bed. (Treating the root cause, not the symptoms!). I take it 2-3 times a day in tincture form, but you can easily put the powdered root in smoothies, hot beverages, chocolate balls, and any other foods your creative self might enjoy.
Have a story about losing, or keeping, your cool? I want to hear about it in the comments.
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The information in this article does not constitute medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. Always thoroughly research an herb before taking it, and any decisions you make regarding your own health are always your own.