I believe in patience, not just as an often-cited virtue but as a necessity of life. Civilized society appreciates it. Civilization depends on it.
Patience is complex. It doesn’t exist in equal amounts among us nor is it practiced with consistency by those who possess it. But I believe we can all dig deep to find it when we need it. When life hands us it’s most trying circumstances patience is there to help us through. The results can be miraculous.
“Patient” was not usually a term used to describe me by those who’ve known me best. Always in a hurry to get on to life’s next milestone, I was intolerant of those who didn’t share my “let’s get on with it!” attitude. As a young adult I smugly considered myself patient as I “endured” rush hour traffic or the slow check-writer in front of me in the grocery line.
Then at age forty-two, two little girls walked into my house leaving foster care’s neglect, and abuse behind them. They were to become my adopted daughters. As luck would have it, I became incapacitated from illness just days after their arrival. I was bedridden and depressed and unable to begin the attachment and bonding process these frightened children so desperately needed.
Without complaint, my husband tenderly cared for me and his new fragile daughters. While my sickness dragged on for weeks, he fed, bathed and read to the girls each night. He bought sippy-cups, hair bows and much-needed shoes for tiny feet. He took them to the park, the pool and the mall, so the house would be quiet and I could get well. He did all this while acting as my nurse. Already a man I considered to be “patient” he tapped a deeper reservoir and persevered each day.
My recovery required my own patience. “Take it easy. Go slowly. Don’t rush it,” My doctors urged. “Too much exertion too soon will cause a set back. Be patient.”
When I finally got back on my feet I learned the term “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” It applied to my daughters and it came with fear, rage and unwavering defiance coupled with spitting, scratching, kicking, meal refusal, and screams of “I very hate you!” on a daily basis. My parental inexperience, frustration and exhaustion often won out. On those days, patience was in short supply; mine for them and theirs for me.
With merciful expert counseling on these issues we learned how to manage our children’s disorder behaviors and heal their little hearts, one minute at a time. With practice, we got through the explosions one day at a time. With patience, progress was made.
Four years later my beautiful children laugh, play, participate in summer camps and perform in dance recitals. They’ve grown and flourished in ways that didn’t seem possible during those early days. They are miraculous examples of what can be accomplished with love, time and an abundance of patience.
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