Persistence, patience, and perseverance are all lofty goals that many have for our children. Virtues that we extol. Virtues of which we moralize to our youth. Virtues that we hope we will impose upon them. Virtues that we hope we will inspire them to aspire to. Sometimes we even write books that encourage children to learn to be persistent, demonstrate patience, and grow to persevere.
Even in my own debut picture book, Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story, my protagonist impatiently can’t wait to grow up. The implied message is, “all in good time.” While the little caterpillar does finally grow up, it ironically does not get to do what it spends the entire story longing to do once it’s grown.
I have mixed feeling about these three words that pack such a punch.
I often live in two worlds. Sometimes separately. Sometimes simultaneously. I can immerse myself in the adult-centric world just as easily as I can, the kid-centric world. I love when contradictions live side by side and am a great fan of irony.
In the adult-centric world that tries to train its youth to grow to be the best people they can be, persistence is the capability to keep at something until you get it. Patience is the ability to suspend your expectations and allow time to pass before you get what you want or have your needs met. In essence, it’s the acceptance of a restructure of time. Perseverance is the drive to keep at something until you’ve achieved or experienced the desired goal.
I realize that these definitions are limited. I am not trying to preach or moralize. I do love to flip the perception just to experience what it might be like on the other side. .
In a child-centric world, these three words hold the same definitions but look so different. Persistence is the child who won’t stop asking for that cookie no matter how many times the adult says, “no.” Patience is the child who can watch a snail make its way across the grass for hours when the parent is dying to leave the park. Perseverance is the child intent on learning to cross on the play structure bars. Their insistence on mastery seems obsessive to the adult watching, as the child’s hands go from blistered to bloody.
It’s humorous that adults hold these virtues in such high esteem but find them so annoying when children actually display them. I wonder if children find it humorous that adults are so serious about things kids do quite naturally.
By Zeena M. Pliska