Toddlers are actual animals. I am nearly certain of it. They eat with their hands, yell and scream, giggle oh-so-loudly and even use the bathroom outside. They are absolute terrors sometimes, don’t you think? Especially in public.
Because of course they are. That’s when everyone else is watching.
But you know what? If you look close enough, you’ll see (just as I did) that the same toddler who will pour a huge cup of water all over the floor isn’t being “bad”. But rather is showing some of the greatest personality traits there are. And we could all learn a thing or two from these Threenagers. At least I could. I’m realizing that I’ve forgotten the importance of imagination and enthusiasm, just to name a couple.
Perhaps, by the end of this post, you’ll realize that toddlers aren’t really being terrible two year olds, but maybe they’re just trying to remind us how to be better humans.
Where’s my confidence?
When Josie walks into a room, maybe it’s at the car wash or the pediatrician’s office, she almost always loudly says “hey everybody!”. She goes in with her head held high. She actually believes that she is THE NUMBER ONE person in the room. That everyone woke up that morning thinking “wonder when I’ll see Josie today?”. She is so confident when she sees others. Not only does she show off her confidence around people, but she’s confident in her ability to do things. ALL BY HERSELF. She’s self-assured that she can buckle her own car seat and take off her own jacket. She’s positive that she’s able to climb the ladder to the zip line and reach her own snack in the pantry. Does that confidence usually come across as loud and rude? Well, yes it does. Mostly because I’m trying to help her do these things; making her feel like she CAN’T. But, with her positive attitude, she is certain she can.
So, where is my confidence? At what age did I stop walking into a room shouting out a greeting like “hey everybody!”? When did I stop feeling like I could do anything and start believing it was too hard to even try?
Where’s my courage?
As most people already know, toddlers do some crazy stuff. And they do them without ever thinking twice. One of Josephine’s most favorite things to do is sit on her little push car and ride it FULL SPEED down the driveway. Which? Is a nice, slightly steep, gradual hill so that she gets faster and faster on the way down. Plus, there’s usually a car parked at the base by the garage. The only way to stop this car? Her feet. And 85% of the time she doesn’t wear shoes. DO YOU KNOW HOW CRAZY THAT IS? I’m not going to lie, I get very nervous when she does this and she does this way too much. Never showing fear. Always brave. Once she even caught a bumble bee and brought it to me saying “here, I got dis for you”.
Do I show how brave I am? Usually I don’t. Mostly, I spend more time worrying about what will happen to me rather than giving it all I’ve got and just doing it. Unlike Josie, I’m always thinking that I will fall, scrape myself up, get stung by the bee.
Where’s my attentiveness?
It’s true. People under the age of 4 notice EVERYTHING. Josie is no exception. She’s extremely observant, just like all toddlers. She notices when something around the house is different, perhaps a new plant on the windowsill. She is aware of me sneaking chocolate in the pantry. Josie’s great at realizing when someone is upset, sad, angry or lonely. She will come to me and say “you sad mommy; I ‘nuggle you, okay?”. Not very many things get by her because she’s so observant of her surroundings. When I’m loading her in the car, all frazzled because we are likely late for something, she will touch my hand and say ‘yissen to dat mommy…yissen to doze birdies’. And then? We take a little time to listen to the birdies. When driving she likes the window down so she can feel the wind and she’s also the only one to point out the moon in the sky. She notices the clouds, a random flower that I just stepped over, roly polys and the teeniest of bugs.
And where is my attentiveness? How many little treasures do I miss each day because I am too wrapped up in something else? When will I stop and notice the new buds on the trees or the tiny lizard family that hides behind our gutter? My toddler reminds me just how important it is to slow down and be observant of others and nature.
Where is my imagination?
Yesterday, and the day before and the day before that, I spent a good bit of time with our “kitty cat”. I called her. I petted her head. I threw toys for her to play with. I even scratched her under her neck and carried her to her kitty cat bed. The thing is, we don’t HAVE a cat. We have a TODDLER who loves to PRETEND she’s a cat. Last week she was down on all fours. In an elevator, with her “paw” up as she licked it. She crawled out of the elevator as a kitty cat. We were at the pediatricians office. As we waited to be called I had to stop my kitty cat from licking the wall. Several times. Other days Josie’s a tiger (Simba or Nala) and some days she’s a dinosaur. But EVERYDAY she is something and that’s because of her crazy imagination. She’s great a pretending. She’s wonderful at imagining herself, or our house/car/trampoline, as something else.
Me? I’m really not that great with imagination. Well, unless it’s about worrying up some crazy imaginable thing that MAY or MAY NOT ever happen to me. Wonder when I stopped imagining really wonderful things and then setting out to make them happen? It’s time to start doing that again.
Where is my enthusiasm?
Josie gets so, so very excited about things that I would consider ‘little’. A stamp on her hand from preschool (that she never wants washed off), a cute pair of socks, a worm she’s found, and even a little packet of ranch dip. Most recently she was overjoyed when I came back from taking Allison to soccer practice. When I walked in she came running and said “you back! you back and I missed you!”. She was absolutely ecstatic to see me and I’d only been gone for 20 minutes. Genuinely enthusiastic. Plus, she does a wonderful job showing her excitement. She giggles and smiles the biggest smile. She puts her little hands together and her face actually lights up. Even the littlest of things brings out her enthusiasm. A sticker from the grocery store and a simple wave from the fireman collecting money at the red light.
Have I lost my enthusiasm for the little things? Shouldn’t I be more appreciative of them and smile bigger when I see friends and family members again? When my kids walk in from school, how would they feel if I was completely overjoyed to see them? (okay, slightly annoyed probably, but whatever)
And what now?
So maybe you don’t have a toddler anymore. Maybe you never did (but maybe someone will let you borrow theirs…actually I’m sure they would), however, I’m certain you know their reputation. They’re known to be LOUD and WILD. Never looking back. Never asking permission. Always jumping in head first…no pun intended. But what if we changed the way we think about toddlers?
What if we realized that they aren’t: stubborn, irrational, annoying, inattentive, or strong-willed?
What if we embraced the fact that they are: confident, brave, observant, imaginative and enthusiastic?
Because if that’s exactly the way *I* want to be described? Why wouldn’t my toddler?