Toddlers can get a bad rap. It is true that they have no real means of regulating their emotions, which can sometimes result in tantrums that are shockingly intense, often over matters involving having to put on pants or to wash peanut butter out of their hair, or perhaps over being asked to take a bite of macaroni. As erratic and annoying as these behaviors can be, the moments of meltdown are far outweighed by the beauty that is toddler joy and excitement. What is more delightful than being thrilled about what we have, right in front of us? Being interested, being awed, being loved. There is nothing more magnificent than that.
I give you three examples.
1. Toddler Grouch and I were in the car, on our way to daycare. Toddler Grouch was looking out the window babbling away, when she stopped mid-stream-of-thought and gasped. “Mama! I see the Moon!” I wasn’t sure if I had heard her correctly, or if the Moon could, in fact, even be seen. I surely didn’t notice it. We turned the corner and I looked, and sure enough there it was. The Moon. It was the first time she had seen it, outside of picture books, that I was aware of. I loved that she being observant, that she was able to incorporate some of what she had read into real world experience, and that she was able to share this experience with me, “You’re right honey, there it is! The Moon!” Her speech echoed my own, “There it is!” she inhaled sharply, doing her little gasp she does when she is surprised or excited, “I see the Moon!” The best part about the Moon spotting was that there were many trees in the neighborhood we were driving through so the Moon would become hidden behind the foliage, and then peek back out again, and she would exclaim, “there it is!” again and again, as it appeared, disappeared, and reappeared throughout the duration of the ride. Several months after the initial spotting she still gets excited about seeing the moon. The other day the moon was visible when we were on our way to daycare. She still points out when she sees it, sometimes adding a “wow!” or a “it’s so pretty”. This time when the Moon went behind the trees she said, “the Moon got turned off”, no doubt inspired by her current guilty pleasure of flicking the light switch on, then off, then on again.
2. On the Fourth of July, I was excited for Toddler Grouch to experience fireworks for the first time. I knew it would be a stretch to keep her awake long enough to see them, but considering she had her cousins nearby to play with, I hoped the social setting would distract her and keep her awake. As we approached the nine o’clock hour, I could tell she was getting sleepy but I didn’t shoo her to bed. At half past nine she said she wanted to go to sleep and I cursed the Sun for taking so long to set. But, I figured I wouldn’t push it, I didn’t want to make her miserable just to satisfy my curiosity about whether or not she would like the show, so we headed to the back house of my parent’s cottage and brushed her teeth, put on her pajamas and laid down together on the bed. We shared a pillow and read two of her favorite stories, Go Dogs Go and Put Me in the Zoo. The bed faces five windows that span the length of the back house, with a view overlooking the lake. By this time, the Sun had finally set and the fireworks began with a few intermittent BOOMS. We had heard some errant booming earlier, and when she looked at Mr. Grouch and I, slightly alarmed, we reassured her and labeled the noise. “Fireworks”, we told her. So, when the booming started again, muffled a bit since we were indoors, I reminded her that fireworks were the source of the commotion. We kept reading until the show started. From the safety of the back house, with the security of pajamas, blankies, books and cuddles, the firework show was safe and attainable. We saw embers that arced and popped and soared, and with each colorful explosion Toddler Grouch let out her little gasp, “Oooh!” and when a really good one sailed into view, our heads would turn towards each other and we’d give each other a little grin. Even when the firework itself was out of sight, behind a tree or out of our eye line, the windows flashed, rectangles of greens and pinks and blues. I asked if she wanted to go outside, now that she knew what they were, and she did, for a bit, before asking to head back in. For over an hour we continued to lay together, with the peacefully muted display before us.
3. Toddler Grouch’s bedtime routine involves the usual brushing of teeth, putting on pajamas and reading of books. She loves to read and we often recite the same story, over and over. I’ll stop every once in a while and give her a raised eyebrow, and she’ll fill in the next word in the sentence. She pays attention. I always end story time with a kiss on her check or her head, and if she isn’t too sleepy, sometimes I’ll trace her face with my fingertips. If I’m okay with her getting a little riled up, I’ll take the end of my ponytail and swish it over her face, which she evidently finds hilarious, since she giggles as she lifts her chin up to meet my tresses. When I do any of these things, she usually says, “again”, which, of course, I am more than happy to oblige. I’ll ask her where else needs kissing, or where my fingertip or ponytail needs to swipe, and she’ll say, “head” or “eye” (yes, she has me kiss her eyelids) or simply, “here” and point. On days that I’m really lucky, she’ll touch my face gently, mimicking my gestures, running her fingers from my head, over my eyes and under my chin. I hold very still.
There’s something to be said about the “Terrible Two’s”, and that is, it isn’t all so terrible. It’s these types of moments that astound me, the ordinary ones that are made extraordinarily beautiful, because of my toddler’s inability to hold back all of her feelings.
What adorable things does (or did) your toddler do that made you notice and appreciate the little things?