Life Lessons I've Learned From My Toddler

As an adult, it’s natural to get bogged down in responsibilities, burdens, and commitments. In your quest to be mature and, quite simply, an adult, you often forget the joy of what it means to be free and genuinely happy.

Immerse yourself for a few hours in the world of a toddler, and you’re transported back to the carefree innocence of your youth. If you’ve ever mulled over the theme of Antoine Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Can anyone pinpoint with certainty the exact moment at which we traverse the bridge into the cold, exacting world of adulthood?

Back when I was a teenager, I promised myself I’d never lose touch with the kid in me, no matter how old I became, or how accomplished and besot with accountability. Now that I have a child of my own whose imaginative mind I can admire, I’m reminded time and again of the little things that are so easy to lose sight of.

Always look up. No matter how dull or bland our surroundings might prove, my son Stephen always directs his vision upward. Whether it’s the lights, or flashing signs, or balloons, or even speakers suspended to a lamppost, he finds ineffable amusement in the objects that reign from above. Keep looking up for inspiration.

Be painstakingly picky. We often mourn the picky palates of our toddlers. But maybe that kind of fastidiousness is exactly what we need to get ahead. When you settle for anything and everything, you lose a piece of your identity as you sink into mediocrity. When you know exactly what you want, however, you become wildly confident and sure of yourself.

Stephen worships croissants stuffed with Lebanese zaatar

Smile and laugh incessantly. How much of your day is spent breaking into smile, or giggling giddily over sheer nonsense? Laughter is the best medicine, and if you don’t believe me, force a chuckle and notice how gradually it becomes natural and insuppressible. It’ll put you in a good mood and infect folks in your immediate vicinity.

Be adventurous. Explore. When was the last time you broke a few rules or pushed the envelope? Stephen goes through my husband’s technical finance books with wonderment. He slips into my shoes and flaps around the room awkwardly in them. He isn’t afraid to get down on all fours and peek under furniture to explore what lies beneath. He approaches cats and dogs with delight. And he’s known to make a beeline for his grandfather’s lap at dinnertime for the chance to suck gleefully at the ice cubes festooning his whisky glass.

What's baking, Mommy?

Enjoy the music. Dare to dance even if there’s an audience. We’ll be strolling in the mall, and loud music blares out of Bershka. Stephen will freeze in his steps and start swaying to the music as a broad smile creeps across his face. Last week, we took him to his first concert, a stellar performance by cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the Byblos Summer Festival. To our utter surprise, Stephen was absolutely smitten by the classical music, gesticulating furiously as a conductor might whenever Ma’s motions on the cello amplified. It was a sight to see, and he sat through two solid hours without squirming, while grown adults snuck out of the concert by the droves!

Feel it and sway with it!

Look out for yourself. Fight for what’s yours. As much as Stephen loves to share, he always looks out for his own interests. He’ll hoard a juicy countryside tomato greedily, or cling to a biscuit in each hand to secure his lot in advance. Once while playing with a cousin his age, he laid his sights on a toy which was immediately snatched from his grasp. He didn’t make a fuss but silently waited for the other child to divert his attention before reclaiming his ownership of the toy and hiding it from plain sight.

If possible, get some shuteye during the day. They don’t call it a power nap for no reason. Even if you close your eyes for 20 minutes at some point in the day, your energy levels will be restored, and you’ll emerge refreshed and revitalized. How do you think toddlers run as though they’re battery-operated?

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Even if no one seemingly understands you, drive your point home. At 22 months, Stephen doesn’t exactly speak coherently yet. But he’s got his own unmistakable language with a cadence even a musician would envy. If I or my husband struggle to make out what he’s saying, he’ll firmly take us by the finger and lead us to what he wants. Go the extra mile to effectively communicate your point and get people on board.


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