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.