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Alison Figueiredo: Hard to believe. But my two-year-old has taught me the art of patience

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On Easter Sunday, I put my two-year-old son to bed and steeled myself for the meltdown that would follow when I left the room.

He has never been a particularly great sleeper, not sleeping properly through the night until he was around 18 months old, waking around 1 am and 3am consistently.

Settling him down to bed at the start of an evening, however, had always been a little easier. So, when this began to change recently,  I admit my heart sank a little.

Losing the early evening, a pleasant luxury after a full day of toddlerdom, was a little frustrating.

On the parenting learning curve, I know that this is a stage and that this too shall pass and I have come to appreciate the art of patience.

It doesn’t come easily in a world where we are now taught to put ourselves first, front and centre, for a myriad of reasons, to seek instant gratification and where everything we need these days is at our fingertips, a mere click away.

Teaching my son to sleep has taught me the art of patience above all else. I resisted initially. I would lie in our room and do as the books all said and let him cry it out. It went against every fibre in my body. The technique was quickly shelved.

This tiny being had no single clue that he was expected to sleep when we did and all the way through the night. It upset me to think how confused he must be, so I relented, picked him up and soothed him for however long he took to settle.

For months and months. Long past breast-feeding and his first birthday. So much so that when he did start to sleep through I had developed mild insomnia.

I learned to cope with the short-term memory loss, general scattiness, the sense of humour failure and people’s reactions to it.  Sleep deprivation is after all a form of torture.

So here we were again and that’s ok. I can sit here and watch him watching me and my every move.  “Sit down mama!” he appeals to me when I get up to shift the chair, worried I am about to leave him.

I let the shadow of the evening envelop me and my mind switch off.  The rest of the world can carry on. I can relax for the evening here with this little man.

He is quiet as a mouse in the cot, shifting about slowly as sleep descends, hopefully comforted by my presence.

After he had fallen asleep I returned to reality and read the papers online.  I was struck by an article by Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph about a  fascinating insight into faith by Guardian writer Madeleine Bunting, part of a series of short talks for Holy Week.

She admitted to feeling the loss of a series of Christian-inspired ideas in this post-Christian world: glory, sin, salvation, patience and sacrifice.

Moore wrote: “She was particularly good on patience. She had given it no thought, she said, until she had children, when she came to realise that it is “a vital organising principle of life” and one which is being beaten out of women (who traditionally embody it better than men) by modern time-poverty (“speed and greed”) and the emphasis on worldly success.

She pointed out that, from his hour in the garden of Gethsemane onwards, Jesus became entirely patient (hence the word the Passion) until his death, and through this achieved his glory.”

How beautiful, true – and sad. A loss indeed.

I have quite some way to go in mastering the art of patience but caring for my son at home has put me firmly on a path towards that goal.

My new “worldy success” is right here. Patience is liberating, most especially when you learn it out of love.

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Alison Figueiredo
Alison Figueiredo cares for her son at home

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