Sometimes I think our society’s got it backwards.
“Grow up,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Maybe Peter Pan was on to something when he decided to live in Neverland. Being an adult is hard, and sometimes, it’s just not very fun. If there’s anything I’ve learned by becoming a parent, it’s that I didn’t have a clue what being an adult was like prior to raising children. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fully grown, well balanced adults out there who never had children. I’m just saying I’ve got a unique perspective on life now that I’ve brought other life into this old world.
The great thing about having two toddlers at home is that they teach me something every single day. Sometimes I learn things I never wanted to know, like how to change a diaper while holding a sandwich in the other hand, or just how long a toddler can “hold it” before the big boy underwear has to be thrown away. Again. But sometimes, they teach me things I couldn’t learn anywhere else. Sometimes they teach me how to be stronger, more adaptable, and more loving than I ever imagined possible.
Toddlers have no inhibitions.
They live life for what it is without apologies. My children have reminded me what it’s like to be a kid again. Here are some ways I can incorporate toddlerhood into my timid, overly self-conscious adult life.
1.Toddlers live without fear of consequences. I know what you’re thinking. The absence of the fear of consequences is the whole reason toddlers can’t be left alone for ten seconds. They will fall off the top bunk, draw on the walls, or cut their little sister’s hair. Ok, that may be true. But as an adult, how often do we pass things up because of fear of consequences? Of course we should execute good judgment. Of course we should only participate in activities that are healthy for us. But when was the last time you did something as an adult without fear of consequences? When was the last time you took off work to go on a spontaneous road trip because you wanted to? Or how about telling someone how much you love them in that exact moment you felt it? When was the last time you went for that promotion without the fear of failing? Fear of consequences hold us back far too often.
2. Toddlers know how to say “No.” Again, I know what you’re thinking. Toddlers can be the most difficult little boogers on the planet. “Brush your teeth.” “NO!” “Go pee pee in the potty.” “NO!” Not always ideal. But those kids know when they don’t want to do something, and they don’t care how you feel about it. When was the last time you were able to say “no” to someone without feeling guilty? I’m terrible at this. Some people take and take from you, and even though you’d rather catch the Bubonic Plague than carpool with them to work one more time, you just keep saying “yes.” It’s ok to say “No” once in a while. It’s actually incredibly liberating.
3. Toddlers love to play. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? The kids play all day long. I remember reading somewhere once that the work of children is play. What if we made playtime a priority? What if we allowed our creative juices to flow and finger-painted once in a while? What if we went outside and ran in circles in the sunshine until we fell over into the tall grass from dizziness? We should take more time for date nights. We should grab our favorite books and read them again. We should get out the sneakers and go shoot some basketball like old times. Whatever your play-thing is, play like a toddler.
4.Toddlers express when they’re angry/sad/scared/happy. I’ve never met a toddler that didn’t clearly express whatever emotion they’re feeling at the time. My daughter Hannah can throw a fit like nobody’s business when she’s angry. I’m talking fists balled up, veins sticking out of her neck, face turning red, screaming bloody murder mad. My son has the biggest alligator tears you’ve ever seen when he’s sad about something- darn near breaks your heart in two. There’s also no denying the sheer joy that lights up on their faces when they see my parents after they haven’t seen them for a while. Why can’t adults feel so openly? Why is it that we are so guarded? Maybe we’d all feel better if we could express our feelings more openly. Imagine the stress you could release by expressing your feelings rather than bottling them up. Imagine the joy you could share if everyone could see your happiness unfolding on your face.
5. Toddlers love with their whole hearts. There’s nothing quite so endearing as the admiration of a toddler. My little Hannah is a tough win over, but once you have her love you’ll never question it. My sweet Coell loves everyone, without restraint, and I love him dearly for it. A hug and kiss from a toddler is precious. If I loved half as openly and deliberately as they do, the world would be a better place. I pray that I always express my love in such a way that the ones receiving it never question my sincerity or the strength of that love. I hope I can love like a toddler.
So, without further ado, get out there and act like a toddler. You’ll be glad you did.