As I watched my toddler dance and hum her little self into a place of pure joy…toys pushed aside, teddy in hand, silence in the background, gumboots, pajamas and her favorite dress on, hair in disarray, Vegemite smeared over her sumptuous face…I found myself reflecting on the wonderful little being that she is. I began thinking about her kind, affectionate personality, her explorative joyful spirit and her boundless energy and zest for life.
The way she makes my heart so full of love that I could burst into an emotional heap of happy tears at any point of time (yes the tears are currently flowing)…the way she challenges every ounce of myself and my capacity as a parent. The way she makes me pinch myself (and occasionally my partners) in disbelief to call her ours….
It then dawned on me….could it be that my darling toddler, my walking talking mind of her own little mini…….is teaching me….an adult who has been adulting for at least 15 years (give or take a few);)…an adult who has studied and practiced in a field that is all about healthy and adaptive ways of living life…and adult who for the most part thought she had stuff kind of sorted….could it be that my toddler…..has taught me more!!!!! More in the last two years of her little life…..than I have learnt in my life time!?!?!?
So I set myself a little task… and here it is….
Lessons learnt…. from the Hands and Heart of My Toddler…I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the reflection.
Live in the moment…life is busy, its fast-moving, and the ‘tasks of everyday’ seem to roll on and on and on. That’s why as mental health professionals we teach and encourage the practice of mindfulness. It’s a way to ground yourself, to connect, to release worry and doubt and to feel the enjoyment of every day. As a Mama, this has been a challenge. And I can honestly say that my little babe, my toddler is like a mindful MASTER!!!! The ability of a toddler to ‘stop and smell the roses’, regardless of the chaos that may be moving around them, the time on the clock, or the fact that lunch should have been served an hour ago, is something to learn from. Yes it can be challenging and frustrating when we as adults have to be the ones watching the clock. But oh the joy you feel, when you just ‘let it go’ and join in on the moment that your toddler is helping you create and connect with…its rejuvenating.
Express yourself…ok so soooometimes toddlers can sky-rocket from happy to devastated in a matter of milliseconds because their little brains are still growing and maturing, and yes they rely on us to teach them the skills to manage and share their emotions in an ‘acceptable’ way…. but the way they so openly and honestly express themselves, is a skill that somehow seems to get lost in the mind of an adult. As adults, if we are unhappy about something someone has done, we often take this away with us and think it over and over, causing ourselves emotional discomfort, when in fact, saying how you feel and why, in the moment is a much more affective way of communicating and connecting with people. And much better for our over all well-being.
There is no better time to sing and dance like NOW…Just yesterday we were moving through one of those Mondays that I like to title ‘recuperate day’…you know those Mondays that are spent riding the waves that result from a busy weekend with lots of activity and not much napping. The evening chaos of dinner, bath bed was fast approaching and the struggle of it all it was written all over my face…As I let out a sigh….my terrific toddler looks at me and says ‘mummy let’s just dance’ as she reaches out and holds my hands, pulling me up from the chair and lifting me out of the recuperate day funk that I had seemed to fallen into.
See the good in people….wave hello… As we go about our daily business, school drops offs, groceries, library trips, park plays, we pass many people. As adults, we seem to become somehow too busy or too distracted to notice the people moving around us. Toddlers seem to have this beautifully innocent way of connecting with those around them. As adults we are the protectors, its our job to assess the safety of a situation. And yes it’s our job to teach our children lessons such as ‘don’t talk to strangers’. But as you toddler walks along beside you, notice how they hold no judgment no preconceived stereotypes about who the person is, they just wave hello. Sometimes all this does is elicit a smile from the person on the other end of the wave, at other times it leads to a quick conversation about the weather, or activity at hand. Either way, its connection.
Look, touch, play and learn… ‘what’s that’ ‘why’ ‘but how’…..common questions often bursting from the mouths of our little ones. ‘Don’t touch that’ ‘oh not in your mouth’ ‘gentle’…common phrases escaping the mouth of us parents as our little ones explore their worlds. A toddlers enthusiasm and instinctive energy to explore the world around them…is something that as adults we seem to either put aside, or get too busy to tap into. My toddler has reignited the enjoyment in learning and exploring that was once very present. It turns out, even as an adult there is so much wonder to be missed when you forget to look.
Time pressure is a facet of the mind…As adults we get so used to ‘living by the clock’…and yes I totally agree that this is an ‘adulting’ responsibility that we need to learn to get by in todays world….But somehow it’s almost as if we conform to the idea that the clock and schedules is what rules our day-to-day life. Breakfast TIME nap TIME play TIME lunch TIME and so on…..TIME for swimming, TIME for work…..hurry and grab your bag its TIME to get in the car… These transitions are often a tricky time for our little ones…leaving them vulnerable for emotional overspill. Causing me to question….at times finishing the story, making sure the tower of blocks is complete, tucking the dolly in her bed, and having just one more push on the swing is more important than getting somewhere ‘RIGHT ON TIME’.
There is nothing more important, more comforting, and more energizing that connection…. Toddlers have a wonderful way of getting their needs met through connection. At times, particularly through the eyes of a tired parent, a toddlers behaviour may seem like attention seeking, or a ploy to get ‘what they want’, but more often than not, their behaviour is a means to an end and that end is connection, with you. Your touch, your voice, your time and embrace is all they need. As adults, the independent autonomous busy life we live can sometimes leaves us deprived of true connection, despite the fact that there are many people around us. Reaching out to your partner, or a friend in a time of need, is usually just what the doctor ordered.
So I encourage/challenge/urge you to take some time to really walk in your toddlers shoes….maybe just maybe our babies are here to teach us a thing or two about how to live this life.