Three things I learned about the slow-paced life from my toddler

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Boundaries are immutable

People always call it the terrible twos, but I think that’s wrong. Age two is the year of realizing that the child is an individual and has separate needs, wants and desires. It is the year of “I come first.” It is the year of “no.”

Two-year-olds can say “no” without fearing the consequences, without fearing your disapproval, and without fearing that you’ll stop loving them. How many adults can say the same?

How many adults say, “yes” out of guilt and obligation? How many adults overburden themselves by saying “yes” all the time? How many adults attempt to make others feel guilty about saying no?

Toddlers will also say no to things that keep them healthy, and that’s another story. But generally, they say no to things that don’t interest them and that keep them from doing things they want to do. My daughter sometimes wants me to listen to her sing, and not sing along. And that’s okay.

The only time is now

Toddlers live 100% in the moment. They don’t get bogged down (stressed out) by the anticipation of unpleasant tasks ahead. They don’t hold on to negative emotions for prolonged periods of time (although sometimes it may seem otherwise). In my experience, two-year-olds don’t hold grudges. They want to live their best life. Right now. There is no “best time” for anything. The best time to play with Playdough—even though it’s five minutes until dinner—is right now. We uptight adults are the only thing keeping that from happening—keeping them in order.

I read somewhere that children have no conception of time. So when you tell them, “I’ll be there in five minutes,” you might as well be telling them you’ll be there in an hour or two days. All they know is you said, you aren’t coming now, and they have no frame of reference for how long it will take you.

The same article, that unfortunately I cannot find anymore, said to give children a play-by-play of when you can do what they ask. For example: I’ll watch you dance after I’m finished cooking dinner. I love this because, first of all, you aren’t teaching them to watch the clock. A 9 or 10-year-old can say “You said we’d only be on the road 15 more minutes…” when a sudden traffic jam appears—adding pressure and stress to everyone in the car. They won’t have that option with the play-by-play.

And secondly, children will know exactly when they can get what they want. I told my daughter, after we look at three items in the store, then we can look at the toys. And each time she asked to go look at the toys, I reminded her of the three things we had to grab. This kept her nice and calm—until it was time to leave the toys. But I wonder if I could have used the same technique: After you are done playing with the toy house, it will be time to leave…

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

How to stop and smell the roses, literally.

Adults are so goal oriented. The destination is the only thing that matters.

Every time my daughter and I take the trash out to the dumpster, we pass some dandelions. In the last few months, they’ve been in varying states of decay and growth. But she always wants to blow the white fuzzy seeds… or smell them if they are bright and yellow. Even during the stroller ride to the rental office, she wants to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

Children have a knack for finding ways to enjoy the ride because everything is new to them. For adults, flowers, FedEx trucks, pruned trees, helicopters and other people’s dogs have faded into the background—excess visual stimuli regarded as white noise.

What troubles me, is we teach our children to be exclusively goal /destination oriented, and not to enjoy the journey. We say, “If you get in your car seat, we can go to the park.” Not, “If you get in your car seat, we will go for a nice ride. We’ll see some interesting things on the way to the park.”

What would we see if we slowed down enough to pay attention to our surroundings? What would new things we notice? Who would we meet?

Everyone has the potential to be a new friend, rejection is irrelevant.

Every time my daughter sees a child she’s never met before, she says “Hi.” And if they aren’t paying attention to her, that doesn’t stop her, she goes up to them, makes sure they see her, and says, “hi” again.

Now, I’m an introvert and painfully shy. (I think this is partially due to experiencing rejection from others, but that’s another story for another day.) I have to be cognizant of letting my child meet new people on her own and draw conclusions about other people for herself. I do my best not to isolate her because of my own insecurities.

She doesn’t take it personally if other children don’t want to play with her. She moves on to the next person or thing and continues enjoying her life.

She immediately sees the good in others and helps create a happy, positive aura around everyone she meets. There is no stress, no insecurity, or worrying about what others think about her. Anyone or everyone can be her friend. Or not. Either way, she continues to move as her spirit guides her.

It’s beautiful to watch.

What has your child taught you about the slow-paced life? Please let me know in the comments below.