3 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Toddler

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Lessons from toddler: a child scoops dirt and wood chips with a small shovel. Other toys and construction truck toys are nearby.I’m the type of person who looks for lessons everywhere. It’s both deeply annoying and profoundly helpful in navigating emotional maturity. I consider this habit my “with great power comes great responsibility” conundrum. It’s annoying because adulting is mostly annoying. It’s helpful because I become a better version of myself and continue to evolve and mature emotionally.

Do you know who doesn’t look for lessons everywhere? Toddlers. But more on that in a minute . . .

Lessons From Dogs

I’ve had dogs most of my life — several different breeds from purebred to mutts. Their personalities always amuse and fascinate me, and they’ve all been vastly different. For instance, one of my dogs was extremely zen and stoic. Another one licked a brick for funsies.

For each one of my pups, I’ve looked at their personalities with introspective scrutiny and thought, what can I learn from them?

Take my two current crazies: They are both rescues with their own set of traumas, and both exhibit anxiety completely differently. One is more shy, fearful, and timid, while the other runs around barking like a maniac. One is very loving, snuggly, and (mostly) obedient, and the other lives his life with no care in the world, weighs the consequences of his naughty behavior (the answer is always “worth it”), and knows how to turn on the charm.

My biggest takeaways from my pups are to be kind, gentle, and loving, but also to live life to the fullest, maybe don’t sweat the small stuff so much, and don’t under any circumstances, piddle on the carpet.

Which Brings Me Back to Toddlers . . .

No, they’re not dogs. However, they think somewhat similarly.

Dogs act mostly on instinct, as do toddlers. Even though there are some studies that show dogs do possess rational thought (debatable), toddlers really do not. When they’re hungry they’ll let you know, typically by bugging you till you feed them. When they’re ornery or upset they’ll act out and bite or hit, or maybe tinkle on your rug right in front of you.

Not sure who I’m referring to? Spoiler alert, it’s both.

I am the primary parent in our little family and spend most days with my two-and-a-half-year-old munchkin. I watch his actions, movements, and emotions, and can see the wheels spinning in his head as he takes in everything around him. It’s amazing, and so fun. I’m in awe of him every day.

Because I’m me, I recently started thinking, “What can I learn from him?”

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Toddler

1. Be Present.

Toddlers live in the moment, and my son is no different. When he wants to play, he plays. When he wants to chill, he chills. When he’s having big feelings, he feels them. And sure, his attention span is basically that of a squirrel with ADHD, but he’s never not present in the moment.

As adults, we don’t really allow ourselves this opportunity anymore. We have too much to do and we’re too darn tired. Every now and again, for our own mental health, we really need to.

2. Speak Up.

Man, this is a tough one for me. Not for my toddler, though. He will tell you exactly how he’s feeling. It may not be in words, but his actions and emotions are very telling.

I tend to shut my mouth and shut down when I’m upset, or when I need to speak up for myself. I like to be pragmatic, rational, and gather my thoughts, instead of just reacting. But maybe sometimes reacting is exactly what a situation calls for. My toddler certainly thinks so.

3. Be Excited!

I wish I could still get as excited about anything as much as my kid gets excited about trucks, planes, trains, and anything that moves. Just this morning, in line for preschool drop-off, he yells “Mama! Trash truck!” And we had to go look at the trash truck. His stoke level was at max capacity. It’s so awesome.

I remember getting so excited about things like Christmas and amusement parks as a young kid that I’d be sick to my stomach. Somewhere along the way, that excitement goes away. I don’t get excited about anything until I’m standing on the precipice of it happening. I’m going to a concert tonight to see two bands I love. Am I excited? Sure. Am I “just saw a trash truck and am losing my mind” excited? Not quite. But I’m going to work on it.

I think I can safely say we all tend to say we’re going to do something, but not actually do the thing we say we’re going to do. And that’s okay. However, I am going to take these lessons I’ve learned from my sweet, crazy, smart, excited little toddler and apply them to my life. Because I’m me, and there are always lessons to be learned.

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