Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Patience for Parents

I got asked to talk at the local UU on Father's Day. I'd originally hoped to offer some "narrative non-fiction" about being a dad, but ran into a bit of a wall. So, I went back to what I "know" (in theory if not practice), and attempted to say something about the place of patience in the life of the parent, and my sense of the need to connect my own theory and practice: "We Are Not There Yet: Patience for Parents."

I joked that perhaps one way in which my work on patience intersects with my life as a parent is when I am yelling at my children to be quiet so that I can work on my book about patience...

P.S. The Jack I refer to at the end is Jack McDowell, a UU member who practices Zen meditation (and often goes to retreats at a Zen center called Furnace Mountain in Eastern Kentucky), who did a talk and guided meditation on mindfulness the week prior to my talk.


  1. I hope it went well. It strikes me as being a really nice piece: clear, substantial, and thought-provoking.

    I'm also struck by your reference to strength, which has me thinking about exercises to develop patience. Almost everything seems to require the exercise of patience (even taking an elevator), so we ought to have lots of it. If we don't it might be that we don't get enough variety in our exercise program. In which case long canoe trips might be helpful. Or it might be that we are simply overwhelmed. Multi-tasking can be very demanding, so it might not be that people are less patient than they used to be, but simply that we need more patience today than we did in the past. I don't know. As long as people have children and dogs they will need (and hopefully develop) patience though.

    1. Thanks. It did go well. There was some good discussion of how children experience/perceive time differently than adults, and can be deeply fascinated by things that bore us after three minutes, and about the marshmallow test.

      I'm trying to think more about the exercise business now, as I prepare to revise and redo a chapter on "limits" of patience. Even though we talk of patience as a virtue, we also call something 'patience' that can 'run out'--or perhaps become fatigued, kind of like the muscular metaphor Baumeister uses to talk about willpower...

    2. I hadn't thought about the marshmallow test connection. That stuff's controversial, isn't it? But I do like the metaphor of patience as strength, albeit not the obvious strength of the weightlifter but maybe more like the strength needed in yoga. That probably doesn't help you though.

  2. Matt,

    I'm not sure this is directly related to the present discussion, but I read this quotation from Franz Rosenzweig today and thought of you:

    "The true concern of the philosopher is with the “essence,” the “essential” being of his subjects. He does not have to wait for an answer to his question. Answers wait for him in eager readiness…" (Understanding the Sick and the Healthy, 41).