Woody and I have just returned from ten days in another world—the world of a 19-month-old. For one wonderful week we had our grandson Soren to ourselves. And for a few days on either side of that, we shared him with his parents Bjorn and Abby, before and after their one-week trip to Saranac Camp in New York with their Young Life kids.
It was a glorious week. It was an exhausting week. And it was an eye-opening week. It’s been a lo-o-ng time since we parented a toddler!
In a sense, I thought of it as a refresher course on what the lives of so many of you moms are like. Except that it was just a week. And, with both Woody and me there, we were two-on-one, while that is not the case for most of you on a 24/7 basis. It certainly was not that way for me when I was raising toddlers—Woody was hardly home full-time to help me out! And last week we had one child to care for, while many of you have more than one preschooler to keep track of.
Nevertheless, I learned (or more accurately, re-learned) a lot! A few random observations from life in toddlerland:
- There’s nothing like a toddler’s smile in the morning. And when they reach out their pudgy little arms to hug you and “pat Nana,” you want to do this forever!
- Every day is an adventure. You never know what exciting things you might see just outside your window (like a neighbor organizing a yard sale which fills the driveway with fascinating junk) or on a stroller ride (the world is FULL of motorcycles, fire engines, and horsies when you’re looking for them).
- Eating is also an adventure. Not only because you never know where food that starts on your spoon may end up. But also because, if you’re Soren, blueberries and avocados and sweet peppers of all colors are like M&M’s—you just can’t get enough of them! (I know—hard to believe: a toddler who actually loves healthy food! What is Abby’s secret?)
- Naps are a little bit of heaven—especially for moms of toddlers (and even more especially for grandparents of toddlers!) They are definitely not to be missed! Take full advantage of them.
- If you’re taking care of a not-quite-20-month-old, don’t plan to do anything else in your life. This is a full-time job! Yes, they take naps (I HOPE yours do!) and go to bed early. But you also will need to take naps and go to bed early. So do not plan on writing the Great American Novel (or even a blog, or coherent emails) while they’re sleeping. You need to be sleeping, too!
- A day at the beach is different when you go with a toddler. Your beach chair is actually only a place to put things on to keep them off the sand—not a place where you actually sit (although your toddler may sit in it for 3-second intervals now and then) Sand is a wonderful thing—not only for digging and dumping and making crab and turtle shapes, but also as a snack additive: everything tastes better with a little sand in it. Oh—and one other thing: a “day” at the beach is more likely to be 90 minutes than several hours—especially if you value naps (see earlier observation).
- There is nothing—absolutely nothing—more fun than eating an ice cream cone. Especially on a hot day at a New Hampshire farm where they also raise goats (aka “gokes”) which you can watch while dribbling your ice cream cone down your shirt. This is living!
- Correction: there is something more fun than eating an ice cream cone. It’s watching your child (or grandchild) eat one for the first time. (Although I do highly recommend eating one yourself while you watch.)
But I do want all of you moms out there to know that I have a renewed appreciation for what you do every day. Not just a week at a time. And not with just one kid. And not with a fellow-caregiver at your side. I always knew you were heroes. I just know better now how exhausting being a hero can be.
And, how wonderful.
The bright eyes and big smiles. The stream of new words. The songs that go through your head even when they’re sleeping (I can’t get the “Fire Truck” song out of my head!) And, oh, those hugs…
Go hug one of your kids for me, will you?
And BTW, thanks to all of you who wrote in or have prayed for our “big kid” in Iraq. I am deeply grateful. He’s due home pretty soon. Stay tuned—and keep praying, please!