As parents we’re given the huge responsibility of raising our children into being responsible, kind, and successful people. Helping to shape the personality, experiences, and life of another person is something we don’t take lightly. We read books, we follow blogs, talk with fellow parents, and lean on teachers to help mold these tiny beings and cross our fingers and hope we’re not completely messing them up. But along this bumpy parenting journey, I’ve been stopped in my tracks a few times and rewarded with my own lessons being doled out by my surprisingly wise toddler. I never thought I’d take life lessons from someone who still picks their nose in public but here it is:
1. Wear what you want.
Toddler fashion has reminded me not to let my clothing choices take up too much headspace. He’s cool with wearing a fleece hat and rain boots on a sunny summer day just because it makes him feel good. He loves a good pajama day and he owns it. He dressed up as a dinosaur for Christmas. And don’t even think about putting him in something uncomfortable or too tight. Not. Going. To. Happen. What if we all dressed for ourselves and no one else? Own your style and be comfortable in your skin.
2. Tell your friend (or a total stranger) about the food in their teeth.
“You smell, mommy.” Thanks, kid. But really, he doesn’t mean to make me feel bad, he is making a genuinely innocent observation, with no judgement, in case I wanted to do something about it. Honesty, be it sometimes blunt, is appreciated.
3. Talk to strangers.
Okay, so this will probably get me a parenting “fail.’ Yes we know about ‘Stranger Danger’ but when we’re out in public and the last thing I’m thinking about is chatting with a fellow shopper about their choice of breakfast cereal, up pops my toddler forming a connection and making another person smile. Genuine, pure kindness and curiosity is so appreciated by others and ends up putting a smile on my face too. My introvert-ness and busy-ness means I tend to avoid these interactions or neglect to see the opportunity while he seems to seek it out. Possible connections are everywhere.
4. If something is not right, speak up.
Ever give one of your kids a treat and not the other? Have to break the news you forgot their favorite toy at home? Our job is to help our kids manage their emotions, not dismiss them, and we can learn from that idea, too. Deserve a raise? Say something! Not cool with the way someone is treating you? Challenge it. I know I’ve learned to pick my battles as I’ve gotten older but I also think many of us avoid conflict at all costs due to the discomfort. Not a toddler, they have a bone to pick and maybe you do too. Standing up for yourself is okay, you are your own best advocate.
5. Be present.
When my toddler is playing outside or deep into his favorite book he’s ALL there. He’s not thinking about the argument he got into with his buddy at preschool yesterday and he’s not worried about what’s for dinner later tonight. His enthusiasm and excitement for everyday moments draws me in and teaches me the power of mindfulness. It calms my anxieties and helps me soak up every last drop of his little-ness. Mindfulness is the ability to be exactly where you are and to appreciate the everyday things we may overlook.