The saying goes, “Learn from your elders.” I’ve heard it said throughout my childhood and into my adult life. There is a lot to learn from people who are older than you, especially from their mistakes. However, I’ve come to realize that I can learn a great deal about living in the present from my gutsy toddler.
Being a parent allows—more like forces—you to live in the moment. Toddlers are temperamental, tenacious, tender-hearted, and if they are anything like my daughter, they are also incredibly talkative. Their mood swings hit you in the face, sometimes quite literally with the unwanted breakfast they threw at you, teaching you not to look away for too long. Sometimes if it’s too quiet (the kind of quiet a parent hasn’t experienced since before they weren’t a parent), disaster can strike. This can manifest as crayons on your beige sofa, applesauce dripping from your dog’s whiskers, and urine puddles—definitely not from the dog.
While I have learned to heed the silence to prevent unwanted mishaps in my home, I have also discovered that my toddler possesses innumerable traits I should adapt to better my life as an adult.
Be fearless. Toddlers at this age haven’t fully grasped the concept of fear. I envy them for this innate trait. They attempt to climb stairs repeatedly, occasionally taking a tumble while trying to descend. They teeter and totter at remarkable speeds until they crash-land into your legs. Yet, that four-inch space between steps manages to trip them up almost every time. No matter how many times my daughter falls or bruises herself, she keeps trying. The next time, she might take the steps a little slower, but fear has no room in her sturdy little body.
As an adult, I believe I would do well to embrace this trait and apply it to my own life. I should continue striving to achieve my goals, no matter the falls I experience along the way. The only one holding me back is myself, just as I’m the only one preventing my child from taking another nosedive down the steps. However, with proper guidance, I know she will eventually navigate those steps safely.
Go after what you want. While my daughter was in daycare, they taught her two hand signals in sign language: the signal for “more” and the signal for “all done.” My husband and I reinforced these signs as they allowed us to communicate with our pre-verbal child. We were ecstatic when she began using these signs correctly. However, there are days when we regret it, like when she vigorously presses her hands together, fingers gathered and touching the other hand insistently, repeatedly saying “morrre, morrre, morrre,” with a strong emphasis on the “r.” We know she desires more. Not more vegetables, fruit, or water, but more Goldfish. We learned this the hard way after the first three options ended up on the ground shortly after giving them to her.
She continues to sign for more until she gets what she wants. She knows she’s not allowed to have goldfish at all hours of the day, but I admire her determination to go after what she wants. She persists until she either succeeds or I, the parent, give in to her constant signing and mumbling of “morrre.” I need to learn from her and pursue my own desires with the tenacity of a toddler, not stopping until I achieve what I’ve set my mind to.
Be optimistic. Recently, I traveled across the country with my toddler. It was our first solo trip without the help of her father. While I was nervous about navigating the airport with a toddler and all the accompanying challenges, she was not. I can say this with confidence because while I was still attempting to tie my shoes after going through security, she was already saying hello to every person nearby, waving her hand as if she were a queen attended to by her subjects. I’m not sure how she acquired this royal wave, but her subjects seem to appreciate the attention.
She waved to everyone who walked by even while struggling to push one of our heavy bags forward. The bag clearly outweighed her by several pounds, yet she refused to leave it behind. This made getting through security quite challenging, as we didn’t have time to wave to every single person in the airport. I also knew she couldn’t possibly carry the bag to the correct gate, but she believed she could. If I tried to take the bulging bag away from her, I would face an early DEFCON 1 meltdown.
The point of this story is that even on a long travel day, in an unfamiliar environment, my toddler approached everyone she encountered and every obstacle with unwavering optimism. I value this optimism and can apply it to my own outlook on life, making my day a little brighter and a little more humorous.