As we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, I find myself reflecting on the past year and the profound impact it has had on children, parents, and families. I was recently asked to speak to a group of employees during a celebration week for their profession. When the manager contacted me, she asked me to talk about something inspirational or happy. I gladly accepted the invitation and quickly began to feel the pressure of coming up with a topic that would hit the mark.
Whenever I need inspiration, one of the first places I turn is to my son. So, I took out my phone and scrolled through my photo gallery. As I looked though pictures from the past year, I started to think about the many things he has taught me. It is amazing the things you can learn from parenting a toddler. Here are some of the lessons I decided to share:
- Music makes most things better. We have spent a lot of time at home and outdoors lately and one thing that has accompanied most of those days is music. We have rather eclectic taste in music, so the selection varies, but the one thing that is consistent is that it always lifts our mood, makes the day seem brighter and the time pass quicker. Find a song, a station or a mix that lifts your spirits or helps you focus. Create your own playlist and have it ready to go whenever you need it.
- Adventure can be found in your own backyard. For months there has been a variety of heavy equipment in the woods behind our house. This may not sound very exciting, but when you are a toddler boy having excavators, bulldozers and forklifts behind your house is a big deal. We have taken many walks into those woods and I have come to appreciate the change of scenery and sense of adventure so close to home. As adults we often think we need to go somewhere new or somewhere far to find an adventure. Look for the everyday adventures close to home – you might be pleasantly surprised what you will find.
- Embrace the things that bring you comfort. The last year has been hard in so many ways and we all long for a sense of normalcy. My son has been so resilient and has found little things that bring him comfort. When he is feeling tired, sad, or overwhelmed he often reaches for one of his favorite stuffed animals. He knows when he needs to slow down for a minute and just hold onto something soft. We all need that. For me, I like to cook and go on long walks through our neighborhood. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to make time for it.
- If it’s a little scary, you are doing it right. When you’re two going on three learning new things just comes with the territory. Some things come very easily, some generate a level of frustration that is almost comical, and others require pushing through some real fear to get to the other side. Riding his balance bike was one of those things. He was very apprehensive at first, with practice he got more comfortable, and the first time he was able coast downhill he was scared, excited and so proud. Growth isn’t meant to be easy. Lean into the fear and you’ll be surprised what you can learn.
- Never skip a celebration. My son turned two during the height of the pandemic. What would have been a lively celebration with friends and family was traded for a much more intimate affair. It would have been easy to phone it in with a store-bought cake and a few presents. Instead, we masked up and took him to the zoo for the first time and came home to surprise him with a celebration in our backyard. He knew the day was something special. Celebrating big and small milestones remind us of what we have accomplished and help us feel alive.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Kids are rarely self-conscious or worry about what we will think if they do or say something silly, try something new or get a little loud. We got my son a blow-up bull last spring. He gave it a silly name, and spent all afternoon bouncing around the yard, having the most marvelous time. Don’t be afraid to let loose and try not to get too wrapped up in what other people think.
- A moment doesn’t have to become a mood. I took a much-needed day off to spend some quality time with my son recently. My typically happy and easy-going child woke up in a mood, and it put me in a mood. One of the things that I admire about him is his ability to experience an emotion for a moment and not let it become his mood for the rest of the day. As adults, we tend to struggle even with the small things while kids can let it go and move on. Practice recognizing when you are experiencing an emotion and acknowledge that you can choose not to let it become a mood. The power of choice is a beautiful thing.
- Traditions matter. My son was really looking forward to Easter this year and even though we stayed home, we made sure he experienced many of the traditions we grew up with – waking up to an Easter basket with special treats, dying hard boiled eggs, an Easter egg hunt in the backyard, and a ham dinner with my grandmother’s lemon dessert. It was a nice day and carrying on even small traditions made me feel closer to my family. The past year has made me more intentional about keeping old traditions alive and creating some new ones. Think about the traditions that are important to you and create new ones when you can.
What have you learned lately? Take a few moments to look back through your photos from the last year and reflect on this question. I saw a quote recently that basically said, “you can tell what’s most important to a person by looking at what they photograph”. For me, that is certainly true.