What Toddlers Have Taught Me by Chynna Laird

In our hustle and bustle adult world, we tend to get so busy staying busy life zooms by and we hardly notice. But once we have children, things change. Many parents find they’re suddenly forced to put the breaks on, especially during those toddler years.

After all, we can’t see what children see or how they see it unless we get down to their level; we need to change the way we speak to be understood and—Oh!—the tantrums! Toddlers can be frustrating, irritating, draining, demanding, messy, loud and embarrassing. But they’re also loving, energetic, fun, appreciative, full of life, and…ours.

We can really learn a lot from toddlers when we give them a chance. Here are some things I’ve learned from my beauties Jaimie (five), Jordhan (three) and Xander (eighteen months):

(1)   Patience is a virtue:  Children force adults to develop a tremendous amount of patience in order to deal with them. Because they can’t speak well we have to interpret. They get angry when they can’t do things so we have to help them practice until they can. They naturally do things slower–that’s how they learn. We learn to be more patient with them and they, in turn, learn to be patient with others.

(2)   Perseverance is key: Most children seem to try new things over and over even when they’re frustrated to tears. Not because they have an obsessive nature – it’s just how they learn. The big people around them can do all of this fun stuff and they want to join in. But these little ones persevere. Whether it’s learning a new Wiggles dance move or building up a tower of block,; they don’t give up. In fact, one of Jaimie’s favorite expressions is “I practice, practice, practice ’til I do it too”. Helping my kids learn new things taught me to stick with things for a bit longer instead of giving up after a few tries. Maybe on the next try I’ll do it but how will I know if I give up too soon?

(3)   A child’s sense of honesty:  All kids will test the boundaries on this one down the road but young ones seem to be willing to tell you they did something. Most heart-grabbing is how they can just say how they feel and what they think. Obviously some decorum will be need to be taught. After all, you don’t want your toddler telling other people they smell, for example. But I just love how they can come over to you and say: “Mama, I’m sad,” and want to talk about it. They’d put relationship counselors out of business.

(4)   The little things:  Children don’t worry about stuff. They explore, enjoy themselves, find fun in the most mundane activities and beauty in things we never think of. They notice little things we ignore like a cat walking by the front door, the consistency of mud and how totally hilarious words like “beep” and “peek-a-boo” are. Adults should devote more time seeing these little things children notice. It’s inspiring to see the world through a different perspective.

(5)   Love me tender:  There will always be sibling rivalry. But toddlers seem to have genuine concern for another person when they’re upset or crying. If Jordhan is crying, for example, Jaimie will hug her and say: “Oh, Jordy, ‘tweetie. You be okay.” Jaimie won’t hug anyone else but she’ll hug her siblings. From their interactions, children are showing us that even though people fight, we still love each other.

(6)   Appreciation: Children appreciate anything and everything, no matter how small. Little ones run up and give you big hugs just for taking the time to pay attention to what they’re showing you. It is such a wonderful feeling to know no matter how unappreciative the rest of the world may seem a toddler loves what you do for them.

(7)   Toddler expeditions: Children love to explore up close and personal. They ask questions and seem seldom tired of learning. Even something like a leaf on the ground can be gripping: you can throw it up in the air and watch it flutter down; rip it apart; spin it between your fingers; step on it or even taste it (I wouldn’t recommend this one for everything.) It can make a ten- minute walk seem more like an hour but it’s truly amazing to see the world through new eyes.

(8)   Focus on today: Toddlers don’t think about what needs to .be done later, tomorrow or even next week (that’s what they have us for). They focus on and enjoy what they’re doing in the moment. They don’t let a future nap or icky doctor appointment ruin the fun of stuffing a mittful of snow in their mouths. Or throwing mud all over the patio. Or spinning around in circles until they walk funny. They live each day to the fullest. This is a valuable lesson adults should take note of.

(9)   “I’m sorry”: Children are so forgiving. One minute they’re fighting over a toy they want, the next minute they’re hugging. Even if we have to discipline them for a wrong doing, they always come up and hug us later on. They don’t like people being mad at them so they work hard to forgive and to be forgiven. That doesn’t mean they don’t hold grudges: my kids don’t forget anything. But things are more fun when everyone is happy and trying to get along (another lesson adults can benefit from.)

(10)   Unconditional love: I didn’t fully understand what unconditional love was until I had my children. They don’t care what you look like or if you’re having a bad hair day; if you’re in sweatpants or a ball gown or if your skin breaks out. They love you. Period. On my most stressful days, my girls will run up to me with great big smiles and give hugs and for some reason, it makes even the worst problems seem not so bad.

I’ve finally learned to slow down a bit and smell the roses. Now I point things out to them they run by without noticing. I know these times won’t last forever because, sadly, one day soon they won’t need me the same way they do now. Life is so short…too short.

So, take it from us: slow down a bit and learn from toddlers. You never know what’s out there waiting to be explored.