Calm Strength and Patient Wisdom
Growing up, my sister and I would fight like cats and dogs. We were complete opposites of each other, almost to the point of being photographic negatives. (Does anyone even know what a photographic negative is anymore? I guess I’m showing my age.) We could fight about anything – toys, books, how we each brushed our teeth, how we tied our shoes. We loved each other, but boy, we had a hard time co-existing.
When things would get really bad, my mother would start muttering under her breath. After a while, I figured out that she was muttering “calm strength and patient wisdom… calm strength and patient wisdom…” Sometimes, the “calm strength and patient wisdom …” would take on a decidedly hysterical edge. I wondered where the phrase “calm strength and patient wisdom” came from, but, let’s face it, mothers are incidental to a pre-teen’s universe, at least in the pre-teen’s reckoning, and I never pursued the matter.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I am the single mother of two incredible girls. The Girlchildren are much better friends than my sister and I were when we were young, and they love and rely on each other in a way that is truly special. When asked, they each will say the other is their best friend. However…
They are growing up, and they do get on each other’s nerves. They still share a room at my house, although that will be changing over the winter break from school, so they sometimes cannot get away from each other. The Younger Girlchild will wail, “Moooooooooom!!! She’s BREATHING near me!!!” Or the Older Girlchild will shriek, “That’s mine, and YOU CAN’T TOUCH IT!!!” I’m betting that pretty much most of you who are parents know exactly what I’m talking about.
One day, after an inordinate amount of homework drama and wails and shrieks and a clogged toilet and a burned dinner, I called my mother after the little, um, darlings (yeah, “darlings”, that’s it…) were in bed. I was tired and completely overwhelmed and probably was crying a little bit. My mother told me that in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, there is a prayer “For the Care of Children”. It reads, in part, “… you have blessed us with the joy and care of children. Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up…” And all of Mom’s mutterings finally made sense.
We, as parents, are told that children are the greatest joy that we can hope to experience. We are exhorted to treasure every single moment of childhood because it goes by so fast. It’s implied that if we don’t enjoy EVERY SINGLE MOMENT, that if we admit to being frustrated or exhausted or at the end of our ropes, we aren’t good parents. We are made to feel guilty that we are not better parents. This bothers me, because let’s face it, parenthood is HARD. Yes, the joy in watching these amazing creatures grow and explore and learn is beyond my capacity to express. But…
The nights when the third grader has forgotten a project that is due tomorrow? The afternoon that you discover that the 3-year-old has stuffed an entire roll of toilet paper, a plastic dinosaur, and 27,546 Legos into the toilet? The stomach viruses and the stitches, the temper tantrums and the slammed doors, the broken bones and the broken hearts? These are decidedly not joyful, and we all experience them. And we shouldn’t feel guilty when we are frustrated and exhausted and at the end of our ropes. We’re human. Sometimes, when we’re in the trenches, all we can do is mutter “calm strength and patient wisdom… calm strength and patient wisdom… please?”
Lee DuBose is a jack of all trades, master of none. She has been a bank teller, a chef and caterer (both in restaurants and in private service), a bookkeeper, a trainer, a legal assistant, and a writer. She is a proud graduate of the University of the South with a degree in Early European History. She planned to be a professor but realized in the nick of time that professors have homework, which she never did when she was a student, so what made her think that she would do it as a professor? While she has not used her degree in her, er, varied employment history, she is fabulous at cocktail parties. Most importantly, Lee is the proud single mother of two absolutely amazing girls, to whom she refers in social media as the Girlchildren.