“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne
It’s summer time, and our routines and schedules are different. The week before last, we were all on vacation. One day last week (the day his sister usually gets out of school early during the school year), in the car on the way home from preschool, three year old J. asked me if it was “early day'” and if we’d be going to pick up his sister from school before his nap, and I reminded him that she was at camp, and we would go and pick her up after he had had his nap. I could tell he was tired and fighting sleep. He asked to listen to his favorite music CD, “Boogie Oogie” (the same one he asks to listen to every single day on the way home from school), and so I turned it on, and we drove in silence for a few minutes, and then he asked me again if we were going to pick up his sister, and I repeated the answer I’d given him a few minutes before. We arrived home, and as I went to unbuckle his car seat, he asked me, “Why we didn’t go get S. first?” I said, “J., do you remember what I just told you?” He shook his head, and I wondered aloud, “Why don’t you remember?” He hesitated, and then answered, “Because I’m a little boy.” I hugged him and reminded him for the third time what our plans were for the day.
It was a simple conversation, but I have been thinking about J.’s response to my question ever since. It is something so obvious, but it can be so easy for us adults to forget. Young children have a different understanding of time than we do. Sometimes, after J. wakes from his afternoon nap and he is telling me about something that happened earlier in the day, he will say, “Yesterday…”. Young children also sometimes take a longer time to process incoming verbal information, especially if they are tired or distracted, or if there is other noise in the environment (like a radio playing). Finally, changes in rhythms and routines that seem like no big deal to us, can be confusing for young children. And generally, the younger the child, the more true all of these things are, which is why it may sometimes seem like children aren’t listening, when really, they aren’t understanding, which can lead to mis-communication and melt downs (on the part of both children and adults).
“What do you say, Pooh?” Pooh opened his eyes with a jerk and said, “Extremely.” “Extremely what?” asked Rabbit. “What you were saying,” said Pooh. “Undoubtably.” – A.A. Milne- The House At Pooh Corner
I think if our children could, they might say something like this to us: “Because I’m a little boy, I need you to understand, and to be patient with me. Because I’m a little boy, I need you to slow down, and go at my pace. Because I’m a little boy, I may need you to repeat a request or an answer to a question a number of times, or find another way to say it. Because I’m a little boy, I count on you to communicate with me in ways I can understand. Because I’m a little boy, it’s easier for me to listen and understand if there is no music playing or other distractions like TV, toys, or cell phones, and it helps me if you can get down to my level and make eye contact when you are talking with me. Because I’m a little boy, I rely on consistent daily routines so I can know what to expect, and how to participate, and so I can make sense of my world. Because I’m a little boy, I need you to help guide me, in a world that is still so new, and sometimes confusing to me.”
One of our favorite books to share together: Little Boy by Allison McGhee. “The simple playthings, the everyday moments, picking up that hundredth rock — all of these are brimming with possibility…if you slow down and let the future begin with the small moments of today. Because everything depends on letting a little boy…be a little boy.”