I am a 30-something-year-old female. I am insecure. I am anxious. I have days that make me doubt my worthiness. I have days when I question my path and my purpose. I have spent years on therapy. I long for a life coach.
Then one day, it hit me: I have the best life coach in the world — my toddler. Skeptical? Think I’m bragging? Read on… I bet you can find similar magic in your own toddler. Here are important ways I can learn from her:
She sings at the top of her lungs.
My daughter sings at any moment. She changes the tune and the words if she feels like it. If I say, “Please go get dressed,” she might sing, “Go get dressed” to the tune of ABC. Music and song excite her, and she dances when the spirit moves her. She doesn’t care who’s around or who’s watching. When did we lose this sense of reckless abandon? When did we start caring so much about what others think that we stifle ourselves? Maybe I won’t start singing Old MacDonald in the middle of my office, but there surely is a lesson to be learned here.
When she hurts herself, she comes running to mommy or daddy for “kiss better.”
When she falls down, she goes straight to someone she trusts to seek comfort. She has no problem asking for help and does not keep her pain bottled in. She sees no shame in pain or negative emotion. Perhaps more importantly, once said kiss or cuddle is given, she moves on to her next toddler task. She doesn’t ruminate or mourn the past and question what could have or should have been. She got her “kiss better,” now it’s time to move on. When did things get so complicated? Why do we spend so much time focusing on a malaise and not letting it go?
“I like your belly.”
I’ve had many years of body hatred and time and energy wasted on diets and exercise for the wrong reasons. My daughter will lift my shirt, poke at my stomach, and say, “I like your belly.” She likes her belly, too, and every other part of herself. I wish I could have this innocence of simply liking my belly. And why shouldn’t I? My toddler knows my belly is a piece of me and should be liked. My daughter knows her body helps her run, jump, dance, and sing. We teach her that every piece of her is special and to be valued. She emulates that, about my body, and then I look at her in disbelief. Maybe I should step back and heed her sweet little voice.
“Look at the pretty water!”
My daughter notices and appreciates the world around her. When we are driving and pass a body of water, she says, in the most excited voice, “Look at the pretty water!” When we are walking, she will literally stop to smell the flowers. She will pick up fallen leaves to bring home to daddy. She notices beauty in everything, and, maybe even more importantly, she notices everything. We are all so busy thinking about the future, ruminating about the past, and rushing to the next destination, that we often fail to see what’s right in front of us. Yes, sometimes I do wish she would stop noticing and get into her carseat more quickly, but at the end of the day, she’s definitely got the right idea.
No doubt, toddlers do pick up many of their attitudes and values from their parents and caregivers. We teach our toddlers so many things explicitly and implicitly that we then either forget or disregard over the years. We encourage them to have imagination, appreciation, and self-confidence. Toddlers have such excitement for exploration and mastery. If we are the ones teaching our toddlers how to negotiate the world with such love for themselves and the world around them, these are surely things we value, too. These are lessons we believe in. So, what happened? When did we shed our toddler skin, and how do we get it back? I do believe the teacher, once in a while, does need to become the learner.
What can you learn from your toddler?