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Stuff I learned from kids- Patience

When I first began working with children full time I got sick… a lot.

 

Kids cough and sneeze and wipe their noses while smothering you in hugs.  They’ll touch trash and toilets and other gross things… then come up behind you and put their hands over your eyes.  They walk around with colds and flus and tropical diseases, sharing their sickness like caterers at a wedding passing out hors d’oeuvres.  Except, unlike a wedding, you’re likely to get more than one.  Sometimes much more than you asked for.

In Summer 2009, I got preschooler-induced swine flu.  Three days in the hospital and a spinal tap later, I realized just how germy kids are. 

They’re dangerous creatures, children.

Aside from the spinal tap and hospital bill, the good news was the immunity.  Having worked with children for a long time now- 10+ years professionally- my body has built up a tolerance to their immature bacteria that would take most people down with a single punch.

I recently read a story about a man who for years has been injecting himself with various types of snake venom.  He can now sustain any number of lethal snakebites and not die.  And that’s the goal.  Survival.  Which is a readily available gift from children that many people don’t realize is there for the taking.

Yes, my above average ability to fight off everyday sickness is convenient, but even more useful, is the way kids have helped me build a tolerance from the miserable, frustrating, hair-pull-worthy situations that happen everyday.  Kids have taught me patience.

This past Saturday I was stuck on a subway train, underground, for two hours.   If you’ve ever taken public transportation in NYC, you know how much a two-minute delay can throw off your day.  But while others started freaking out, yelling, losing their heads, I stayed calm.  I kept my patience.  I work with kids.

Whether you have kids or work with kids or have ever come in contact with a child, you’ve probably had your patience tested.  They can be adorable and funny and clever little angels… or button pushers.  Sometimes kids don’t like to listen.  Or sometimes they listen too well (parents think when they repeat a four letter word you muttered to yourself).  Sometimes they make terrible noises- like that crying sound- or other ones they’ve made up and have decided to put on repeat for hours.  Sometimes they throw things or break things or lose things.  Sometimes they literally pull your hair out.

But you battle through.  Because you’re learning to be patient.  To take deep breaths and relax your shoulders.  To turn bubbling screams into clear instructions.  To move with purpose not anger.  To listen more instead of shutting out.  To find a solution in the most stressful situations.

 The patience required when working with children is a survival technique first, but it can also come with many rewards.  Because when you’re patient, calm in the most testing situations and you come out on the other side, there’s no feeling like it.  Even better than knowing you can withstand the venom (yes I compared children to poisonous snakes), you often realize that you’ve learned something.  That you’ve figured out a new way to help a child and yourself.  That you’ve learned why the child was restless or upset.  That you know not only how to solve a given problem, but more importantly, prevent it.

Dealing with children is definitely not always easy, but over time, you build a tolerance and develop a patience you can’t find anywhere else.  And, once you’ve weathered a difficult situation dealing with kids, your next impossible challenge might seem easy.  Whether it’s battling the season’s latest flu* or waiting in line at the bank or dealing with Time Warner customer service… you will be ready.

*Seriously though- you will get sick.  Those mini bottles of hand sanitizer at CVS are totally worth it.

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