Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ode to Toddlers

Yes, it's that time of year...Mother's Day is just round the bend...a perfect time to get a copy of my book, All About Motherhood: "A Mom for All Seasons" & Other Essays, the perfect gift book for the mom(s) in your life (or if you're a mother, for yourself!). You can order the new, expanded edition at your favorite online bookseller, in paperback or for your Nook or Kindle. Please buy it soon... Mother's Day is on the way!  Below is an excerpt...Enjoy!

Don’t you just love toddlers?  Yes, I’m talking about the “terrible two’s.” I think this age group has gotten a bad rap (especially in retrospect, now that my toddlers are grown).
            When I had toddlers, everyone would look at me with sympathy and concern.  “All that chasing around!” my mother would cluck.  “You’d better sit down now, because once he’s a toddler, you’ll never sit again.”  (There was some truth to that!) I also suspected that my gaze would never again meet the gaze of another adult; it was constantly traveling—up on counters, into drawers, under cabinets…wherever the toddler went, my eyes, arms, and legs would follow.
            No one denies that toddlers are hard work, but they’re also undeniably cute—and they seem to carry a special message for harried parents.  Just this week, I was reminded of how much toddlers have to tell us—even though, for the most part, they’re not especially articulate.  After all, you wouldn’t normally think of people who bellow things like “Me want cookie!” or  “No, no, noooooooo!”  as savvy advisors. 
            But just watch a toddler for a moment or two, and you’ll be amazed by how deftly they communicate deep and resonant messages. For instance, in just one short walk around town last week, I noticed toddlers everywhere, desperately trying to teach their parents and caregivers.  On one corner was the little girl who had meandered over to a bench, while her mom—one arm laden with packages--yelled “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” while briskly snapping the fingers on her free hand.  This child had about as much interest in moving as a signpost; as she sat on the bench, happily watching the cars go by, she seemed to be saying, “Slow down, Mommy. What’s the rush?”
           On the next block I found another toddler stumbling round and round a tree while his parents stood nearby, helplessly watching.  It was clear that this child’s well-dressed parents had places to go and people to meet, but they were stymied by their son’s ability to trace, retrace, trace, retrace his steps ad infinitum, all the while embracing the knobby girth of the tree trunk.  Like the little girl up the block, this toddler seemed to be trying to get a point across--something along the lines of, “What’s your hurry, when we all end up back in the place we started anyway?”
            A few steps later, I came across another toddler perched backwards in her stroller while her grandmother fussed nearby.  No matter how hard this poor woman tried to get this toddler to sit down, the child simply would not stay. Grandma would tuck her into the stroller face forward, but within seconds she had squirmed back up and was standing backwards again.  Obviously, her grandma couldn’t go anywhere with the child in this precarious position.  She was forced instead to stand still and marvel at her little Houdini.
            But just in case you’re thinking that all toddlers want is for parents to hold still, the next two-year-old I came upon was running as fast as a bullet, while her plump nanny trailed breathlessly behind her.  This kid had obviously had enough of life in the slow lane; her message was that she had so much to see and do that she didn’t have time for rest and relaxation. No sitting in the sandbox for her!
            By the time I got home from my walk, I was completely exhausted, not from the three miles I’d covered, but from observing all the two-year-olds I’d encountered along the way.  And I thought to myself, why are parents so frustrated by toddlers?  Is it because they demand so much of us--trying our patience, playing us like puppets as we chase them here and there? Or is it because they force us to take a good look at ourselves?
            Toddlers certainly inspire us to look at life from a different perspective--whether upside down, on all fours, or on the run. Sure, they throw tantrums and sometimes they bite or hit.  But maybe that’s just what it takes for such a little person to get his point across to the big folks who obviously don’t have all the answers, even though we’re in charge!

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