Time Warp: Development and Perspective

By: Julie Gamberg

At the zoo, all my toddler wants to do is touch the animals. “No, honey,” I tell her, “This is their house and they want to stay there and they want us to stay here and they do not want us to touch them. But we can wave hello.” “But,” she says, “I want hippopotamus to go uppy” (meaning she wants to lift up, cradle, and hold the nice little 500-pound hippopotamus).

We just started a small class in someone’s house which involves having several animal visitors with whom we can interact – including petting, touching, and in some cases holding and feeding them. During our last class, we met a juvenile wolf, a chicken, and a pot-bellied pig.

My child loves the idea of pigs. She loves wolves. But did she want to touch and pet them? Did she “want wolf to go uppy”? Of course not. When the animal was there, without restrictions, without a cage, she was hesitant.  “But look honey, you get to actually pet the wolf. It’s a very friendly wolf. Let’s pet it.” Suddenly she is way more interested in snacks and playing, and opening and closing the gate to the pen.

I’ve realized through watching her how true it is that children process the world at their own speed and in their own time and I’ve also had to realize that I need to make a concerted effort to adjust my own thinking to reflect that. Just as my perception of time shifts depending on if I’m, say, having a good time, or bored, so does it also shift depending on how pressured or relaxed I’m feeling, or on other aspects of a situation.

It may appear to me that all my child wants to do at the zoo is go after the forbidden fruit – touch the animals behind the cages – but it may be that in reality we’ve already been at the zoo for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or an hour, before she feels “ready” to touch the animals. It may be that I’m so sick of telling her she can’t touch them that from my perspective I feel like she’s been asking forever.

And likewise, when we’re at the animals class, which I have paid for, and at which we only have a limited amount of time in which to interact with the animals, it’s quite possible that time moves in the other direction. That I can’t believe six whole minutes have gone by and she still doesn’t want to cuddle with the wolf.

Oh, kids. Oh, parents.


  1. says

    Kids are so different and one day they want to pet the animals and the next day not. They are building up their tolerances, joys and fears.

  2. says

    Great post. One of the great challenges of parenting is the fact that we live in different time perceptions. I frequently have to take deep breaths as I’m thinking about that line from The Devil Wears Prada: “By all means move at a glacial pace.” Thanks for a great post that reminds of all this!

  3. Julie says

    I love it! I saw that movie but didn’t remember that line. I’m going to say that to myself in a funny-ha-ha-lighten-up-way (not a terrifying Anna Wintour/I’m going to strangle you now way) and think of you! Thanks for the great tagline to toddlerhood! :)

  4. Tashia says

    All my toddler daughter wanted to do at the zoo a couple of months ago was run around freely – she had no interest in looking at the animals!

    Considering she can do this for free at the local parks, which are also a lot closer, it may be a while before I take her back to the zoo. Then again, my curiosity may get the best of me and we may try again sooner rather than later… but I will definitely take her *after* her naptime next time to avoid the meltdown she had when she got overtired!

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