The patience of a Spartan, or, the obsessions we carry.
Some days I feel like my patience level is roughly a notch below that of an already-grumpy hippopotamus whose muddy river reverie has just been interrupted by a gaggle of immature gazelles who are trumpeting and dancing around in a frenzy of play and movement,
and I get so frustrated with myself for the patience I lose, which also seems to get lost at roughly the same rate and time as my coffee mug and sense of humor,
and it is at these times that I am grateful for two things:
My fellow parenting partner, who also undergoes the same struggles upon occasion and provides a relief valve in the form of empathetic listening, lilting laughter, and perceptive nuggets of emotional wisdom.
The perspective that comes from beautiful little moments that remind you how ridiculous some frustrations are. Or at least provide some counterbalance.
One of these boys - I will not say which - is massively, massively, massively into Ancient Greek history and mythology.
To be clear: not Norse, Egyptian, or any mythology you might reference. And don’t even think of confusing Roman with Greek mythology. You will get a giant derisive grin and ten-minute monologue from the anonymous afore-mentioned scholar on why Greek mythology is way better than Roman mythology. #copycats
I say this with humbleness, but also a reflection of my own interests and studies: I probably am more familiar with the 400-year period of Greek history ending in the approximately 300s B.C. than ninety-percent of the general population. It has interested me for a long time, so I am familiar with it.
His interest is specifically in the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, as evidenced by the stacks of books accumulated from the library and his recent birthday. And…he has reached the point where his questions surpass my knowledge in certain areas and my historical frailties become clear. He has any number of questions and queries he wants me - or anyone around - to engage with concerning these matters, and it is so horrible to admit but at a certain point it starts to become white noise.
Again, this is a subject area that I have loved since I was a kid, and here this boy is that I love who has taken a similar interest and whose knowledge is now surpassing mine in some ways, and…
…I still get impatient. Yes, he’s not asking to play Xbox, or binge watch Netflix, or any number of things I might be less excited about. He’s reading - and writing his own book - about Ancient Greek history.
When you’re super excited or interested in something, what do you want to do?
You want to share it.
You want to talk about, ask questions about it, tell others about it; and it’s hard to understand how everyone isn’t as enthusiastic about your interest as you are. I get it.
Suffice to say, our household is filled, sunup to sundown, with discussions and monologues and trivia about this particular topic.
His bed has books sprawled on and under and around as he reads by lamplight and opens and closes the days with his precious books.
Our vehicles are filled with books piled up as he transports them from one location to another; terrified that we might end up somewhere where he won’t have access to a particular tome he immediately needs to reference.
His Google search history is filled with queries about how to correctly pronounce Aristagoras and Megabates and which countries were part of the Ionian Revolts and why certain alliances were broken and how the Persians came to set their sights on the Greek city-states and how long he’ll have to wait before he can watch Zack Snyder’s R-rated The 300, even though “I know a lot of it’s probably not accurate”…
…and lots more.
Am I a tiny bit proud of his interest?
Do I realise how ridiculous it sounds to others about how I could get impatient with him over this interest?
Do I still get impatient, despite acknowledging my own hypocrisy?
He is a child, and a child’s main job is to be curious and to play and to follow their interests, and one of my main jobs is helping to enable that and ensuring they’re able to do so in a safe and healthy manner.
Sometimes I lie in bed and think: why did I not take five more minute with him and simply go through the process of researching why exactly Aristogoras helped ignite the Ionian Revolt? Why didn’t I just spend a little more time with him doing that?
There’s all kinds of answers to that question, and the truth is no matter how much we love our children - we, collectively, as parents - there’s also the day-to-day realities of existence that demand our attention and take us way from giving them all of us at every moment. And that’s okay.
But it doesn’t make it okay for me to get irritated, to get impatient, to get frustrated at the wanting of more attention. It’s normal for kids to want attention.
I want more attention sometimes! And it is frequently the single most difficult thing to give people.
I am trying to do a better job with giving my focused attention in the moment, whether it’s with a task I must accomplish or to a friend needing a listening ear or to a child wanting to talk about the specific geological makeup of the land surrounding the Pass of the Thermopylae.
One of the things I’ve done well for a long time, but gotten off track with recently is the ability to leap into the future, look backwards, and laugh. Laugh at myself.
When I leap forward into the future and I imagine how I will view myself, getting frustrated and impatient over a thousand questions about the same topic from a fresh nine-year old…
…pretty sure I’m going to laugh at myself then.
So I might as well start now.
Feel free to join in. I can take it. #SpartanStrong