The family that smiles together…
As a parent there’s this universal assumption that you’re supposed to be the teacher. You’re the one with all the answers, the reasons why. You guide the way, shine the light, make those everlasting impressions.
Well, over the past three years — most notably the last year or so — I’ve come to realize my toddler has just as much (if not more) to teach me about life and myself than I’ve yet to bestow upon him. And so, I’ve decided to gather a few of the top lessons he’s taught me together in one place, so he has something to use against me later on in life, of course.
I am not that smart.
It turns out 3-year-olds ask a lot of questions. And most of those questions consist of two words: “But why?” From questioning the night’s dinner choice to the reason why it’s two piece of wood and not two pieces of woods, Owen can question everything and anything with, “But why?” And he does. I was sure I had all the answers or at least a good portion of them. Turns out I don’t.
It’s humbling and embarrassing, but it also helps me learn more. I find myself looking things up so I can get back to him later on in the day. When he asked me why you couldn’t eat the road, I didn’t want to just tell him, “Because you can’t.” I instead looked up the ingredients and told him what was in concrete. He didn’t like the sound of aggregate and so declared then and there that he would never eat road. Glad we dodged that one early.
I love that he asks questions, but it’s also tiring. I’m thankful he’ll often relinquish the barrage of whys when mummy says, “It just is, OK?” He’ll think for a moment then sigh and say, “Oh, OK.”
The funny thing is, I want to have all the answers for him, but I’m also learning I won’t be the one who has them nor will I be able to provide them all for him. He’s going to have to discover some of those (if not most) on his own from other people, experiences, places, things. As he grows his answers will come from all around. It’s hard to give up that power of knowledge and impressionability as a mother. This is something else he’s taught me about myself.
Messy is all in how you look at it.
From toys on the ground to various stages of a meal on one’s face; a mess is all in how you look at it. I have had full discussions with Owen about picking up his toys because he made a mess wherein he insists they need to be where they are for later use and/or because they are happy there.
Well, perhaps he’s on to something there. Maybe the laundry in the corner of my room is happier there. Maybe it’s easier for me to grab a clean glass from the pile of washed dishes beside the sink than to open the cupboard and get it from there. And maybe leaving my makeup out on the counter at all times actually saves me time in the morning instead of having to dig it out of a makeup bag…
Maybe this is something I’m willing him to teach me. Nah, can’t be.
Mornings aren’t stressful.
Unless you let them be. I used to let them be, but not anymore.
My alarm clock is my son. Sometimes I’ll set one if I know I am scheduled somewhere specific, but 95% of the time I’m woken up by the shuffling of pajama-bottomed feet in my bedroom and a gentle, “Mummy?” as he approaches my side. He never wants me to get up right away, nope. Mornings are our cuddle time. He slides into bed with me and snuggles right up. Sure he’s twitchy as hell and I get kneed in the uterus, kicked in the thigh and head-butted every now and then, but these are the moments I live for and they are the prefect way to start the day.
I used to drag myself outta bed, dreading the day before it had even begun, thinking of a million things at once. My brain was awake before my body, and everything was reluctant to start and function properly. Now, I spend the first moments of each day discussing odd tidbits of dreams, questions and comments about life (“But mummy, why does the wind sound like that? Biscuit is hungry mummy, we have to feed her. Check the weather, mummy.”)
Owen greets each day with such joy, such anticipation, I can’t help but feel the same way. Of course, there are the odd off mornings that are stressful and bad for us both, but we’re only human and those are bound to happen. Otherwise, it’s a joy to be around him to start the day. From his over-the-moon excitement about eating (once again) a breakfast bar with his milk while he watches “Dinosaur Train” to him gleefully shouting out the species names to me while I get dressed down the hall, it all brings a huge grin to my face and I’ve learned to appreciate mornings in a way I never, ever did before.
Honesty and humility are key.
If nothing else, I’ve learned that honesty and humility are always the answer. Owen will be the first to tell me I look like a princess in a dress (Every. Single. Time. Be still my heart.) while simultaneously telling me I’m too old to do something (which he believed was the reason I couldn’t stay up on a surf board on a lake at one point in time…).
That’s where the humility comes in to play. I’ve accepted a lot about myself over the past few years, and while much of it was brought on by myself and things I’d done or said, a lot of it was also thanks to my toddler pointing it out to me.
Owen likes to recount a story about the time he was stung on the toe by a wasp at the park. He was in a great deal of pain the afternoon it happened and it was heartbreaking to see. In my infinite mummy wisdom (read: I frantically searched online for a way to stop him from being in so much pain) I made a baking soda paste and he calmed down. However, he remembers it now and speaks about how much it hurt. I don’t try and make him remember otherwise, but instead remind him that the pain stopped and he was very brave about it. And he agrees and says he wants to run in the grass barefoot again.
Owen also often asks where daddy is. I’m upfront about it and tell him daddy is at his place because mummy and daddy don’t live together anymore. This inevitably leads to a, “But why?” To which I respond, because we didn’t want to live together anymore. And for the time being he’s satisfied with that. He’ll then launch into a series of statements about each location and the things he likes and dislikes at each.
We laugh at ourselves, a lot. I don’t think I ever did this before. Owen will opening fart and giggle like he’s just told the funniest joke. Falling over by accident? Hilarious! Pants on backwards; like the best joke you’ve heard in years. Mummy’s hair messier than usual? Gigglefest ensues. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’ll drown in our own self-pity and that’s no way to live.
Patience isn’t enough, you need understanding.
They say that patience is a virtue, but I’ve come to believe that understanding is an even bigger virtue and a necessity as a parent. Sure, I can be patient with Owen until the cows come home, but I’ll not get anywhere with him until I understand him and he me.
To me, patience builds frustration, for both. I don’t want to wait for Owen to do or not do something, I want to and need to understand the issues about why something is working or not. And the same goes for him. I see his mind working when he doesn’t get his way or he asks for something and doesn’t get the response he wants. He’s trying to understand me as much as I am him.
It’s a process I believe we’ll continue to be in and develop throughout his childhood and maybe even into adulthood.
Tickling is the best thing ever.
As an only child, I’m not an expert at play-fighting, teasing or anything of the sort. I grew up with a lot of books, a few cats, and my mother who was more content to sit and colour/draw than she was to chase me around the house as the “Tickle Monster” which was fine with me.
Well, now that I have a boy I’ve learned that tickling is a massive part of parenthood. It’s a great way to start the day, break up a mundane moment, change a bad mood, and even as a bedtime routine.
To tickle is to bond, and my God is there anything better than a full belly laugh from a toddler? I really, really don’t think so.
Life is what you make of it.
Winter has been horrendous here: cold, snowy and just downright depressing. Most days it’s been too cold to go out and play, build snowmen, sled, or even skate with temperatures dropping well into the -30C zone. However, no matter how cold it is and how much I tell Owen how cold it’s going to be when we get outside, he’s always fascinated with the fresh snow/weather status. He’ll want to touch the snow, he’ll question why there’s ice, where it comes from and why he has to be careful. He’s genuinely interested in everything around him. And it makes me stop and take notice, appreciate the world around me and take it all in. In those moments, I don’t hate winter as much.
We often get stuck in traffic together, Owen and I, and no matter what the journey always ends in smiles. From questions about the cars around us to spotting airplanes and listening to music he likes (he makes me stop the radio on songs that have pianos because according to him he likes pianos), there’s no built up anger at our situation, no annoyance. Even if he announces he has to go to the washroom, a simple, “Can you hold it bud? We’re not there yet,” is enough to satisfy him and divert his attention back to better subjects, like why the lights on the back of the car in front of us keep lighting up.
Being a mother has taught me so much about myself, both good and bad. It’s brought me to new lows and incredible highs. It’s never easy, but it has fantastic upsides. I wake up every day proud to be Owen’s mother, and satisfied with the job I’m doing (because any mother will tell you she could always be doing better, and I know I could). I’m not perfect, nor do I strive to be. Owen will continue to teach me every single day we’re together, and I only hope I can bestow upon him as much wisdom as he’s already passed on to me.