When we think about patience with a toddler we think of the mess that is mealtime, the struggle to understand toddler-talk and the necessity to stay calm in the face of tantrums and meltdowns. All of these moments are very trying and for many people, these challenges characterize what means to raise a toddler. I reject this notion and sayings like "the terrible twos." While these kinds of complaints at important ways to vent, this type of rhetoric needs to be carefully couched as not to bleed into negative expectations we inadvertently communicate to our children.
Sorry for the digression, that's a blog post for another day . . . back to patience. . .
Last week when we were visiting my parents, I found myself starting to lose patience, and not at a time I expected.
After a couple minutes, it became clear that Buffy wanted to sniff around so I lifted her out and let her walk next to the wagon. Ollie seeing that Buffy was out of the wagon, stood up and tried to climb out of wagon. My initial response was to tell Ollie to sit down, but my mom said it was fine, stopped the wagon and let him climb out.
Ollie went up to my mom and pointed to the handle of the wagon. My mom gave Ollie the handle and he happily tried to pull the wagon. After moving the wagon about a foot, Ollie dropped the handle and climbed back into the wagon and motioned to my mom. She picked the handle and started pulling the wagon. After the wagon moved another couple inches, he stood up, my mom stopped the wagon and he climbed out and went to pull the wagon. Ollie repeated this cycle of riding in the wagon and then pulling the wagon over and over.
At some point my mom had turned the wagon around so we were heading back to her house. Even though we were making progress as a snails pace, Ollie was completely into this process. After he had climbed out of the wagon for the tenth time, I was done. I was about to pick Ollie up so we could get moving. My mom stopped me and said it was ok.
We were not in any rush, we had the whole afternoon ahead of us. Ollie was content working through this process and even though it was monotonous for me, Ollie didn't seem to mind.
In teaching we often talk about meeting children where they are at developmentally, emotionally and otherwise. My mom demonstrated this idea with her patience letting Ollie experience the wagon ride on his own terms. This patience was really important for this experience to let Ollie explore and learn at his own pace.
I'm not sure why I felt a lack of patience with the wagon, maybe because I was getting tired of watching Ollie's lack of progress down the street. That wasn’t what this activity was about for Ollie my mom saw that and let him be, which was exactly what he needed at that time. Ollie understood with the wagon that it wasn't about the journey and not the destination.