A lesson in patience from a praying mantis

Whoever said, “Patience is a virtue,” probably never had kids. I say probably, because I am too impatient to look it up. See where I am going with this?

praying mantis

Patience. Yeah, that’s not one of my core elements. Before I had kids, I’d be that person, who would run down the stairs, passing a pregnant lady and simultaneously knocking over an elderly disabled person so I could catch a train I probably didn’t really need to make. I lived life in a hurry, and everyone and everything was in my way. My intolerance wasn’t limited to the physically slow, anyone whom I felt lacked my perceived level of comprehension of basic knowledge was also met with disdain.

I know, I was pretty obnoxious.

Having kids has a way of chilling you out. You need to channel every meditative technique you have learned in order to calmly handle all that your kids can (often literally throw at you). It takes a lot of restraint to not completely lose it when your child asks you to read the same damn book over and over and over again. The same zen like patience is required when handling yet another tantrum over something completely asinine.

Every day is a new test of my ability to stay calm, to assess each situation rationally, and to act in a fair and appropriate manner. I fail often, but I succeed often. I am learning and improving all the time.

And, I am learning to be more patient in other aspects of my life. I no longer feel that constant sense of urgency when I am traveling. I try to enjoy my journey a bit more. I walk slower (sometimes because my kids force me too), I think before speaking, and I breathe deeply.

Sometimes, I slip up. Sometimes, frustration gets the best of me, and I lose my cool. I get impatient with my kids, and I don’t act like the mother they need. I read something incendiary online, and I fire off keyboard rants in fits of rage. Patience is forgotten.

When these things happen, I think the universe sends us reminders. Mine came to me in the form of a praying mantis.

Looking for praying mantises was a common childhood pastime. I’d scour my back yard for signs of their distinct triangle heads and skinny limbs. I’d delight when I found one and giddily let it crawl on my arm.

My childhood was filled with mantis spottings. My adulthood? Not so much.

I saw one a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t wild, so not sure if that counts.

Then, I finally saw one, in the wild, unprovoked, the other night.

The second day of Rosh Hashana, the holiday honoring the start of the Jewish new year, was ending and rolling into the Sabbath. The kids were tucked in and my husband and I were settling in for the night.

I don’t remember why we decided to go outside. Maybe we heard a noise? Or just needed some fresh air? Whatever the reason, we found ourselves on our front porch. My eyes traced the mountains that outlined our horizon, eventually settling back on to the side of our front door. A praying mantis crossed my line of sight.

I watched as it delicately walked along our front porch. I was tempted to pick it up, but decided observation would be enough.

I have thought about what seeing the praying mantis meant, ever since that night. I believe in signs from the universe, and the mantis is an animal steeped in symbolism. Seeing one is often considered good luck, and many revere the creature for its ability to take every move calmly and cautiously. There is no rushing a praying mantis.

I know I can be more patient with my children, with my husband and with those around me.  I can read an angry comment on Facebook, or get cut off while driving and not immediately fire off a bunch of expletives. If something upsets me, I can pause, take a few breaths and then react. If need be, I can find a quiet space to gather my thoughts. Rushing to deal with a problem, often just makes it worse. A few extra moments can make a difference.

Of course, if you are not one to believe in signs, the praying mantis was probably just gobbling up all the bugs that have stuck around because of the freak weather we are having up in New York. I’m totally cool with that, because I also saw cockroach, and I think the universe might be telling me to go clean my house.




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