Patience: Toddlers Just Don’t Have It

By  | 

Butterfly Gardens are wonderful in theory. It’s an educational activity that allows children to see the life cycle of an insect, from caterpillar to crysalis to butterfly. I remember watching them in elementary school science lessons. A butterfly garden seems like an awesome gift for an inquisitive toddler who loves animals.

But there is a glaring problem with butterfly gardens that I had never considered before. They take a long a time. Weeks, even. They take weeks before you actually get to see this magical transformation. And toddlers have almost no concept of extended time tables. They don’t think in the long distance. Toddlers are all about right here, right now. So after twenty minutes of examining our caterpillars, my daughter was ready for them to become butterflies. “Alright, insects, I’ve seen you. What else can you do?”

In one day, my daughter had said, “They butterflies yet?” at least twenty times. By day two, she stopped asking and just look at them with a resigned humph. By the time these little guys finally start to do anything cool, she’ll have forgotten all about them.

I’m trying to teach her patience. I’m trying to teach my daughter about the future, or time increments such as months and years. I’m trying, but with very little success. In these attempts, I’ve come across a few other difficult situations. Like our beautiful soon-to-be butterfly garden, the joy in these activities has been hampered by my child’s lack of patience.

  • Registering for pre-school. Pre-school registration was this spring. I got a little weepy and took my daughter in to introduce her to her very first school. At first, she was intensely excited about the idea to be a big girl. She pointed out every school bus she saw and wondered when it would pick her up. She waved at her school every time we passed it, which we do twice a day. A month later, she’s getting very angry that school is so far away. In fact, she’s downright resentful of those school buses.
  • Vacations. I read some random study once that said planning a vacation is actually more of a stress-reliever than the actual vacation. People feel the happiest the week before their vacation than on the actual trip. Who knows if that study was credible or I’m remembering it right, but I enjoy planning out my vacations. Heaven help me if I share those plans with my daughter. In fact, even a day trip can’t be communicated with her until 10 seconds before we leave. Because if she knows we’re going somewhere fun, she wants to be there NOW.
  • Pregnancies. Pregnancies are difficult enough to explain to a child. But explaining that they take ten months is downright impossible. My toddler doesn’t understand how long that is. She also doesn’t understand how on earth the baby can breathe inside of its mommy for any extended period of time, but that’s a different discussion. Suffice it to say, if you tell her that you’re going to have a baby, she expects you to produce said baby in the next couple hours.
  • Christmas. Or any holiday. Christmas seems to be the most prevalent for me. Because stores start decorating for Christmas immediately after Halloween now. Then I have two months of explaining that HoHo isn’t ready yet. By the time he arrives, she’s apt to be sitting around the fireplace tapping her toes at him with her arms crossed.
  • Gardening. Little did I know, gardening has become a Mommy & Me activity. There are dozens of adorable gardening sets to help children dig, plant and pull weeds right next to their mothers. And playing in the dirt is lots of fun! Unfortunately, Brenna got excited about what she planted at first, and now she’s furious that it hasn’t sprouted yet. She’s convinced I tricked her and the seeds were “broken”.


As she grows older, my daughter will learn patience. I’ll continue to teach her about goals and future rewards. And maybe a butterfly garden today is a step in the right direction. But some concepts are just not easily communicated and time is one of them. So until she grows up a little, I might find a more age-appropriate science lesson. Preferably one that can be completed in a couple hours.

(Photo: Thinkstock)