You can learn a lot from a toddler.
We spent last weekend with our sweet grand daughter. As many grandparents will attest, there is nothing quite like the love one feels for a grandchild. People had been telling me this for years, but it took gazing upon our own grandchild to give me the full picture. In the fifteen or so months since she was born, I have spent a lot of time just observing her. I’m starting to compile a list of lessons that this wee one is teaching me.
- Play is important. And it’s fun! I’ve spent so many hours of my life being serious; I have sometimes forgotten to play. Not this little girl! She makes everything into play — eating blueberries, getting her diaper changed, taking a bath, riding in the car, and waiting in line at a restaurant. If she has a spare second, she’s playing peek-a-boo, chase-me, let’s-knock-it-down, splash your Oma, or anything that will make her, and me, laugh.
- Fun is contagious. Every time this little one giggles, I giggle. If she makes a silly face, I make a silly face. I can’t hep myself. She draws me in. She walks right up to me, hands me a book, leans toward me with a smile, and I’ve just gotta smile back. I don’t think I was serious for a single second all weekend, unless you count that moment when she face-planted at the mall. At that moment she taught me another lesson.
- If you’re hurting, you just gotta cry. In my almost fifty years of life, I have stuffed a lot of emotions. I have concealed fear, subdued laughter, and swallowed pain. Not my little girl; nope. When she feels something, she shows it. When she face-planted, she cried loud and hard — the kind of crying that loses its breath and gets silent. It was legitimate. She bruised the very fleshy part over her cheek bone. She hit hard. When she cried, no one tried to silence her; we let her cry. We had seen the injury. We felt her pain. And she taught us another lesson.
- When you’re really hurting, Dad is the safest place to turn. Opa swooped her off the floor and rushed her right to her daddy who engulfed her in his extra-strong arms so that she could bury her face in his extra-large shoulder and wail. He just held her and held her while she cried. He kept her safe and secure while Mom checked out the injury, Opa found us a place to sit down, and Oma got some ice. When the pain ebbed a bit, and Dad placed her in a booster seat at a table, her tear-filled eyes watched him as she drank her drink and ate her fries. When he stood to get some ketchup, her eyes followed him to the restaurant counter and back. She checked that we were all still sitting near her, but she didn’t smile until he was headed back toward her. It wasn’t long before she regained her composure and reminded us of another lesson.
- When you fall down, you gotta get back up. After the spill and the fries, our girl cautiously entered the children’s area, observed what the big kids were doing, and then tried out some of the toys herself. Mom showed her how to push the buttons that lit up. She ran from one end of the play area to the other. She looked up at the towering climbing apparatus and then showed us another important lesson.
- You’ve gotta know your limitations. She was clearly impressed by the kids who were climbing higher than their parents’ heads, but she recognized that she didn’t have the means, or perhaps the courage, to go where they were going. She walked under the looming structure, but when she realized that none of her people had gone with her, she turned around and walked back out. No one had told her she couldn’t go in there, she just knew that if we weren’t going with her, she wasn’t going to do it alone. In fact, at that point, she’d had enough of the play area and was ready to go walking for a bit.
- Exploring is interesting. Our girl was happy to ride in the stroller as long as we were moving and changing her scenery. We walked through the crowded mall and she had plenty to look at, but when we went into a store and the stroller stopped moving, she voiced her protest. And there’s our next lesson.
- Let your concerns be known. This little girl does not shy away from communicating. When she is ready to move, she makes some noise. When she’s hungry, she goes to the kitchen cupboard where her snacks are stored. When she wants up, she reaches; when she wants down, she leans. When she’s happy, she talks and laughs. When she’s sad, she cries. But my favorite of all is her way of communicating when she’s just tuckered out. She goes to her Daddy, the keeper of all things safe, and gives the signal.
- Because when you need a recharge, you go to Daddy. She stands near him. She rubs her eyes. She might try to climb up in his lap. Since he’s her dad, he recognizes the signals. He lifts her up and holds her close. She puts her head on his shoulder and just submits to his embrace. She doesn’t necessarily sleep; often she just soaks up his love for five or ten minutes. He holds her, enjoying this mutual love fest. If she falls asleep, he lets her. If a brief charge is all that’s needed, he smiles, kisses her head, and lets her back down to go play and explore some more.
I probably don’t have to spell it out for you. You’re smarter than that. You can see what I saw, can’t you? You can learn from a toddler, too.
and a little child will lead them.