Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Beyond Being Patient


Parenting, Playful Advice

Being patient implies waiting for something. Though passive, there still seems to be an effort, and deeper still perhaps even subtle conflicts. Because of this, I don’t like being patient with Carly. Being patient isn’t good enough.

It rained today. Carly stomped out in her rain boots, sloshed to the car and knocked on the door. ‘Do you want in,’ I asked. She nodded and I opened the door. Carly crawled up the driver’s seat and began turning all the knobs like the pilot of a 747. Playing with the knobs was not on my list. I thought I had other things to do. It became clear. I had a choice. I could sit there and be patient or I could surrender and, to use a phrase, ‘be here now.’

Being here now isn’t waiting for something to happen. It is realizing that it is happening and this is it. Carly Elizabeth is a ‘be here now’ master. I’m not so good, but in the presence of a master things get easier. That is the great gift we are given as parents. We get to spend lots of time in the presence of masters and if we are not too busy being patient we can discover who we really are.

There is a doll house shop across the way from our gallery. Carly loves to wander around touching everything because that is what she does at nineteen months. This place is packed with small nick-knacks, music boxes, porcelain fairies, hinged glass boxes, tiny handmade birds complete with nests and three blue eggs, refrigerator magnets, carved soaps; the assortment goes on and on. Up high are beautiful collectable dolls of every kind. Carly leads, stopping randomly, touching or picking up what catches her eye. My job is to carefully put everything back as she reaches for a new treasure, something I learned at the food market. She is the only toddler in the place. Few parents would risk it.

Assisting close to the floor but not censoring or controlling, the words of Joseph Chilton Pearce echoed as I placed a glass stagecoach with four miniature glass ponies back on the shelf; “a child not restrained never needs restraining.” Carly is careful as she touches this and that, again, because that is what young explorers are, discovering, testing. Her movements steady, precise, her attention keen and focused, something Jean Leidloff of the Continuum Concept noted with her stone age villagers deep in the Amazon. Nature expects appropriate unless we adults adulterate that nature, and we often do. More often than not it is our anxiety that distracts the child when they drop or break something, sometimes even themselves. Knowing she is sensitive to my physical and emotional state I am relaxed, confident she will be fine, appropriate and guess what, she is. If I were being patient, which implies being impatient, my state would be different. My subtle tension, conflict or worry would resonate and distract her and me. Lucky my little ‘be here now’ master was modeling and I, her student, was a quick study. After about fifteen minutes, which is a long time for a toddler, she held my finger and we walked out onto the busy sidewalk.

We are so busy, buzzing like the frantic White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, late, late for a very important something. We are hardly ever ‘being here now’ and this, I’m afraid, conditions our children to be the same. Add technology and being here now is impossible. When I am good, and I want to be my best for her sake and mine, I consider being with Carly Elizabeth a meditation. I surrender to the moment and take my cues from her, which does not mean that I am passive. I’m very active, extra quiet, observant, sensitive, as I would be dancing with an expert, because she is, an expert at being Carly Elizabeth, nineteen months young and couinting – being here now.

Michael Mendizza