Time is relative. Summer months fly by,
but the winter is endless. A wedding
day is over in a flash, but waiting for
medical test results for a loved one has the minutes dragging on
and on. A two-week vacation is way too short, yet spending an
hour at a less-than-stimulating meeting can feel like an eternity.
Parents of young children feel as though they will never get
through the ‘terrible 2’s’ phase, while parents of high-schoolers
are amazed to find they have a new driver in the family.

Not only do specific situations create a sense of a time shift, but
I have a different sense of time depending on my own age at the
time of the event. When I was a child, my next birthday seemed
light years away. I remember how important it was to say I was
4½ and then 4¾. Now when I celebrate a birthday it feels as
though the past year was over in the blink of an eye. Riding
a bike for hours on end, as a 10 year old, was a breeze. Now,
the mere thought of half an hour on a stationary bike is pure
torture. As an adult, I can get lost building furniture for hours
in my basement workshop and never notice how much time has
elapsed, while watching television has me checking my watch
constantly.

So it is with young children. They have no concept of time and
very little sense of past or present. They only know ‘now’. That’s
why many have poor impulse control. They aren’t particularly
happy with delayed gratification. When they want a new toy,
they don’t want to put it on a birthday list for a party coming up
in 3 months. They want it while they are staring at it in the local
toy store.

Preschoolers’ desires are also frustrated by the natural course of
the ages and stages of development. We all know that one needs
to crawl before he can walk, and one can’t run until walking
is mastered. But that doesn’t prevent babies from trying. They
don’t sit around and wait until they are ready to master the skill;
they try, and they fail often, but they just get up and try again.
Kindergartners are anxiously wiggling their first loose tooth.
The baby teeth will fall out when they are ready. Diapers will no
longer be needed and they will learn to tie their shoes. They will
learn to write their names and they will learn to read. But only
when they are developmentally ready. Nothing will be accom-
plished by trying to push children through these stages. The only
thing that happens is that the child becomes frustrated, as do the
parents. All the important milestones will come in time. It’s up
to the adults in the child’s world to recognize that most learning
happens on the child’s timeframe, not on the adult’s.