It’s no secret that parenting is damn hard. It brings out the worst in you and unearths some of the best a person can give. This piece is about the latter.
The Patience of a Saint
“Dani has the patience of a Saint,” Candy, a teaching assistant I’ve worked with for years, has said about me a number of times. My line of work demands abundant patience indeed.
I went into teaching because of Diego and only began my special education career when he was 12. I entered the profession already armed with saintly patience, forged by years of intensive practice in replacing my impulse to scream and cry with the habit of breathing-in-breathing-out.
I learned from dealing with innumerable tantrums, with jabs at my heart when Diego was excluded, with the exasperation of trying every which way to get Diego to grasp that two cookies plus two cookies make four cookies -and failing miserably.
I became patient by learning to accept that I can’t control others -not Diego, not my husband, not teachers, not society. All I can do is try my best to influence them.
Same thing with results. Yes, I try to influence them. Ultimately, however, I can’t control them.
I’ve also become quite skilled at observing an event dispassionately before responding. I fail more often than I’d wish, especially around my husband, but I’ve become good enough at it to be deemed as having “the patience of a Saint.”.
I don’t react. I respond.
Just this week, I broke the news to Diego that there will be no Alumni Day this summer at his beloved Riverview School. He had been looking forward to it like only Diego looks forward to events. He would talk about it daily, ingeniously inserting the topic whenever possible.
“When do you start school?” Abuela might ask me. “August 23,” I’d say.
“That’s after Alumni Day. We’re going to Alumni Day!” Diego would make sure to remind us.
Anyway, Diego was sad, anxious and upset when he found out there would be no Alumni Day, and I rode out his grief with saintly patience.
Another subskill of patience is what I call selective hearing, and I excel at it.
When Diego’s in a high mood, his non-stop talking sounds like radio chatter. It’s relentless, yet I’m able to tolerate it. I tune it out and hardly hear it at times.
Selective hearing proves particularly handy when anyone close to me says something out of frustration that I know they don’t mean. I don’t hear it until we’re all in a position to talk about what’s going on. I wait patiently until the right time, or a better time at least.
Likeability By Proxy
Diego’s a sweet person who delights family, friends, and especially strangers.
“Hi, I’m Diego from the United States. Where are you from?” he says to people in the elevator when he’s on a trip. Wherever you’re from, he’ll have something pertinent to say about the place.
Madrid? His cousin Ivan, who was born in 1996, lives in Madrid!
Thailand? His friends Maria Cecilia and Jose Abel went to Thailand and rode on elephants and The King and I is in Thailand!
He spits out fun facts, gives compliments, prays for you, and makes funny remarks.
Most people he knows look like a stunning actress or a gorgeous actor. Claudia, for instance, is Nicole Kidman, Irene’s Jennifer Garner, and Tia Rosanna’s Christina Applegate. I’m Tina Fey and Tia Lole’s Marge Simpson. Hmmm 🤔, I guess we can’t all be stunning.
Yes, Diego’s exceedingly likable. Because I’m his mom, some of the likability rubs off on me.
Shhhh… You might not know this, but I’m a b*tch from time to time, as my sisters will confirm. Diego smoothes out my b*tchy edges, and folks are more apt to give me a pass because, they figure, I must have had something to do with how adorable Diego turned out.
Then there’s how much I do for Diego and how much he loves me. It is heartwarming if I do say so myself. But I’m no different from other mothers with adult children with special needs, mind you. Their family and friends admire what great parents they are.
Guess what, though? We’re no better than other parents. Our children just never ceased to be dependent. They also never stopped loving us in the trusting and physical way young children love their parents. It’s exhausting sometimes, but what can you do?
You don’t know any different. You love your child. Also, you have no choice. So you adjust to never being done being a caregiver.
The Real Me
Innately, I’m not uniquely patient or likable.
Thanks to my parenting journey, I now fall in the above-average range of the patience curve. I don’t know that I consider myself a patient person, seeing as it still takes a lot of effort to behave like one. Even so, it’s a worthwhile effort.
Being likable? Well, that’s just a lucky freebie that comes with the territory.
Post about the very worst in me: I Am Simply Human