Before embarking on the adventure of starting a family, I felt as though I had this whole ‘life’ thing figured out. I went to college, graduated, paid bills, went grocery shopping—I was pretty dang good at ‘adulting.’ My husband and I had our first son in 2013 and while newborns have their own rules and challenges, overall it went smoothly. Our cuddly bundle of joy really made our house a home.
His first birthday came and went in the blink of an eye. His second birthday seemed to sneak up on us and, if I’m honest, had me in tears because he was growing just way too fast. For his third birthday, we tossed out the idea of a traditional birthday party and instead took him to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” While Disneyland is fun at any age, to a child, it’s pure magic. While I was there I found myself staring in disbelief at how big our baby had become. In fact, he wasn’t a baby any longer – the toddler life was in plain sight.
So here we are at age three, and man it’s a daily crazy emotional roller coaster—one minute we have the sweetest little toddler who is planting big smooches on his little brother and the next minute he is asking me why I won’t allow him to squish his infant brother—yes, we talk about refraining from “squishing” other humans more than I would like to admit. But through all of his moods, whims, and tantrums our son has taught me more valuable lessons in three years then I learned in the past thirty. Here are a few that I am focused on putting into practice in my own life…
Lesson 1: Say no. And when you say “no,” mean it and stick with it. While this might be a toddler’s go to phrase, for us adults it gets a little harder to use. We are so used to saying “yes” to an unexpected work project, another kid birthday party, etc. Instead of succumbing to the pressure of “yes” all the time, try no. Using this phrase lets you prioritize what’s important and focus on what really matters.
Lesson 2: Sing out loud. Toddlers don’t care where the mood strikes or who is around when they get the urge to belt out a tune, they do it. They are unequivocally not afraid to act on their desires. While as adults, we may not literally sing out loud—except for in the car. We should act more on what we want to do rather than what we should do. Chores can wait, emails can be responded to later…focus more on living in the moment.
Lesson 3: Find boundaries—then push them. Oh yes, children of all ages are great at this, one might even call them experts. They test limits, and our patience. But you know what, I’d rather have a child pushing boundaries and questioning why his teacher is asking him to do something than following directions blindly. As adults, we are better at knowing where boundaries are, however, we aren’t keen on pushing them as much. You know what, push that boundary! You may just be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Lesson 4: Love. Above all, love fiercely. Love with a passion that is all consuming. Our babies look up into our eyes and you can see a pure love—it consumes them. Toddlers aren’t afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeve, and as adults (maybe even moreso for men) we are programmed to do this less often. I am here to tell you to break out that t-shirt and wear those emotions right there on your sleeve—moms and dads! Show your kids what true love looks like. At the end of the day when the sun goes down and you are tucking them into bed and you both whisper that last “I love you” for the night, that is what it’s all about.
We all know that parenthood is one crazy journey and at times makes us think we are going to lose our minds, but, honestly, is there anything better?