one thing I held onto during those months I was pregnant. The one thought that got me through sleepless nights.
Because, honestly, Matthew is a teenager with attitude.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Matthew is happy and funny and he has a wit that’s quicker than lightening. But he’s also a teenager. And who knew that teenagers with that extra chromosome are not immune to teenage attitude? I certainly didn’t.
He has actually prayed that his mom would be a better mom to him (we say prayers every night, so he said this RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.) He wanted a better mom because earlier that night I told him that, thank God, he has the ability to actually get his own “cold water” and that he needs to start doing this for himself instead of expecting for me to wait on him like a servant. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what the word servant meant so that kind of took the steam out of my stream-of-thought argument.
The other morning I was helping him get his shoes on for school because we were fighting the clock – actually he was sitting on the sofa watching TV while I was struggling to get his foot in his shoe. I said, rather exasperatedly, “Do you think you can help me out, just a bit?” Granted, I said that with just a hint of snarkiness in my delivery. To which he responded with a heavy sigh that screamed annoyance.
Really? Really? I’m trying to put a shoe on what essentially is a wet noodle because he’s too wrapped up watching a “Goldbergs” rerun and he’s annoyed at me? I was about to let loose with one of my all-time best mom rants, designed to instill guilt, fear and remorse, all at the same time, at its intended target when I stopped myself. Because of Father Gus.
Instead of retaliating with my own “REALLY” and the (justified) verbal onslaught after that, the words of Father Gus pounded into my head. “Patience. We all need to be more patient.”
The crux of Sunday’s homily from Father Gus (Puleo) was simple, yet more important today than it has ever been.
Patience. A small word that can throw a mighty punch when delivered correctly.
As I shoved the shoe onto Matthew’s foot, and heard “patience” reverberating in my head, I was reminded that Matthew does indeed respond more to a positive approach rather than intimidation. Both my boys are like that. Kaitlyn — I can send a message to her with just a simple glare. I like that — it requires much less effort than positive reinforcement. As my mother always said, each kid is different and you have to figure out how to reach them and get that message delivered.
Anyway, ignoring Matthew’s teenage attitude (which is just as infuriating from him as it was from his chromosomallycorrect brother) I put on my best Mary Poppins attitude and got his shoe on. He responded just as I had hoped — by forgetting that little snarky exchange ever happened, and we were out the door — skipping and singing – OK, that’s an exaggeration, but we were smiling and as happy as an annoyed mom and attitude-y teenager can be at 6:45 a.m.
As I walked back into the house, I thought about that little word — patience. I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to change how I approached life — I could feel the pull of negativity and resentment, and I didn’t want to fall into that pattern of being, well, negative. So I decided that I was going to change things up.
When I’m driving, I try to be aware of the other driver — meaning I’m most certainly going to let you turn in front of me, merge in front of me or pass me on the inside. And if you’re riding my bumper because you don’t think I’m going fast enough, I will gladly pull over (if it’s safe) and let you go ahead of me. No, I’m not recording your license plate or calling the cops. I simply want you off my back. I’m not fighting that fight or any of those road-rage dances anymore because frankly it was too exhausting. And too negative. So, I try to have patience when I’m behind the wheel. There are times when I still let negativity creep in, especially when a driver makes a careless or stupid move, but for the most part, I’m Gandhi behind the wheel.
But it goes beyond the road. I’m trying to bring patience into all aspects of my life. If my kids are getting on my nerves (trust me, this is a daily struggle) I try to channel Job so that I don’t let them see I’d rather just be watching The Real Housewives of Anyplace rather than engage in any type of discussion.
When I’m standing in line at a grocery store for an eternity — because I picked the wrong stupid line again — I try to occupy my thoughts with anything other than the customer in front of me who decides checkout time is the best time to 1) talk on the phone 2) sort and separate coupons 3) count out exact change and 4) wait for a bagger to come along and put those 100 items just purchased in bags.
Breathe — inhale, exhale and look at those tabloid headlines. That will pass the time quickly…
Don’t get me wrong, this new attitude doesn’t mean I’m just going to let people take advantage of me. My
mom also said “If you make a doormat of yourself people will walk all over you.” She was the grand example of living life right. She gave of herself with patience, integrity and sincerity, but was no one’s fool. So, if I figured, if I try to conduct myself in the way she did, not only will I be better off, so will everyone around me.
I’m not kidding myself, though. There’s no way I can live up to my mom’s character. And that’s where Father Gus’ final reminder comes into play. I need to be patient with myself. To accept that I’ll fall short a bunch of times, and that I’ll not measure up to most expectations. But that shouldn’t stop me from trying — from trying to be a good, honest person trying to live life the right way.
Plus, since it’s on the top of Matthew’s prayer list that — if I’m not careful (and nice) he’s going to ask God for a replacement mom. And, when it comes right down to it, he really is worth all those glasses of cold water I fetch (his word, and I’m dead serious) for him. I just need to work at expanding his vocabulary. Cheryl Kehoe Rodgers is a content editor at The Times Herald. Email her at [email protected]ald. com
If a kid can get himself to an open shot, like Matthew Rodgers, right, has done here, he certainly is capable of “fetching his own cold water.”