Toddlers are a lot of work. If you just whispered Amen or gave a head nod this is for you.
This is for the moms of people yet not higher than waist level. Actually it’s for the dads too, grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles.
True, toddlers are indeed a lot of work, but it is perhaps one of the most magical times of their lives and … I miss it.
Yes, yes I know easy to say when it’s a distant memory, but make no mistake I have not forgotten it for a moment.
Granted I am the mother of a soon to be 10- and 13-year-old (they remind me of this weekly). “It’s a big birthday year,” they chime and each time they do I cringe … just a little. We have many big birthdays ahead of us, yet as they grow in age and size I find myself pondering the passing of time.
I started this column making note to those still doing life with these magical, mystical creatures also known as the toddler and for that there is reason.
Oh yes, I know the toddler needs so much. We have to cut their food, buckle them into the car seat, help them with the potty or worse teach them to use it. Side note: this was hands down the toughest phase of parenting for me. In all the mommy honesty stories I have been blessed to partake in, the true struggle of the teaching them to use the ‘potty’ and placing yourself on house arrest, carting a potty along in the car and all the other crazy antics did not prepare me for this lesson in parenting patience. This struggle is real.
But I digress.
The toddler needs help all. the. time. Okay, so maybe you have an independent one who needs help less than others or better still wants to help you. I live with one of each in the way of personality so yes, I get that even the helping child can channel another area of patience.
Here’s what I want you to know. Here’s what I wish I had really understood. The gravity of this is huge and my fear is as I watch so many wrapped in their phones, documenting it to share with the ‘world’ or texting mommies because ‘it’s efficient’ you’re missing it.
You’re missing moments and the moments are what shape them, us and the relationship. The moments are the one commodity you cannot place a monetary value on. The smiles, giggles, bright eyes of pride as they do things on their own ... those, those are fleeting moments.
So why share this now? What makes me such an expert? That answer is simple, both nothing and everything all at once.
As I shared earlier, in a matter of weeks I will be the mother of a 10- and 13-year-old. Not only are they growing in age, but size as well. Standing a 5’10” flat footed, no longer do I kneel for photos of the three of us. No longer do I swoop one or both up in my arms for one giant family hug. Now, we have to coordinate when our photo is being taken so that mommy isn’t completely blocked by their taller and leaner frames.
As a family, we live a busy life. We juggle a lot and yes, I manage to catch and preserve as much as possible via video and photos, but as of late mostly through stillness and presence. The reality of their growing up and the speed at which it’s happening caught me off guard, most recently as I took their photo.
As they stopped and posed, my eyes filled up. Where did my babies go?
Gone are their chubby cheeks, bright eyes of wonderment and sweet little fingers. Their clothes no longer small and cute, but expressive and stylish. No longer do they ask for a snack or juice box, they simply head to the kitchen and help themselves.
Gratefully, they still reach for my hand on occasion, let me kiss them good-bye at drop off each morning for school and yes we still giggle together incessantly. The mythical, magical toddler however has left. I’m grateful I lived this piece of their life with limited ‘smart’ phone engagement. I’m grateful that even now, as they navigate the world I am able to teach them what it means to be ‘present.’
What I know for sure is, you can sleep later. Your friends, the true and real ones, aren’t going anywhere and your toddlers, well they need to see your eyes and smile as much as you need to see theirs. Don’t miss it.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.