Toddlers. Never thought I would have one of my own and never thought one could teach me so much about adulthood. I have a 15-month-old son who has just learned to walk in the past couple of months. He is in that not-a-baby-anymore-but-not-quite-a-little-boy stage, which is incredibly adorable. It can also be frustrating when every pot, pan, cereal box, and piece of clothing in any drawer finds it way to the middle of the living room. Every. Single. Day. Don’t get me started on the Legos. They’re of the devil.
I am currently suffering from chronic back pain. Chasing after my son and walking are proving to be difficult tasks. This frustrates me to no end sometimes. I still let my ego get in the way, you see.
Toddlers, especially boys, have an insatiable need to be outside. As much as I want to veg on the couch and nurse my poor chronic-pain pride, I must take this child outside. So I decided to do a quick stroll around the block with him. I had an AGENDA. Designated time to leave, designated route, and estimated time of arrival.
Apparently, toddlers don’t dig agendas.
That quick stroll became a journey, a quest for the Holy Grail of Toddlerhood. I’m not sure what he was looking for, exactly, but he searched and explored with passion. Charisma! Excitement! Look, Mommy, what’s this? “No, no, no, that’s dog poo, don’t touch! THAT DOESN’T GO IN YOUR MOUTH!!”
Leaves were fascinating. Bugs. Grass growing between the cracks in the sidewalk. The neighbor’s dog. The train whizzing by. Mailboxes. Dandelions. Grasshoppers.
Staying on the sidewalk was obviously not part of the plan.
Initially, I was aggravated because I wanted to get home by my ETA. But I watched his face, I watched the wonder in his eyes, and then I let go of the destination to find the journey.
So simple, really. Definitely cliche. I’ve seen and read of so many other people who have written similar stories, watched their AHA! moments. Some things, however, must be experienced, not taught.
When we finally returned home, much later than originally designed, I looked over this little toddler dude. Messy. Sweaty. Dirty. Leaves stuck to his clothes where he stumbled, fell, and then laughed. And I truly got it.
I took that lesson with me to the office on Monday morning. When I sat down at my desk and was hit with deadlines, projects, expectations…destinations…I remembered my Toddler lesson. The journey, the little things. Something was different.
I lingered a little longer at my coworker’s door to see how her family was doing. I listened with wonder on the phone with a candidate who has overcome so many odds yet managed to sustain such passion to fly. I saw the people, I listened, I watched, I experienced. I examined their faces, expressions, and tones.
Had I not stopped, I would never had known that one of my coworkers had recently adopted a child with all kinds of tips for me in the future. Or that another is struggling with depression. Or that a candidate had lost a friend recently.
I read between the lines. I looked people in the soul instead of through them. I had a relationship with both people and my world instead of sailing through, trying to reach some self-imposed goal, only to fly to the next one, never really savoring anything at all.
May I continue to marinate in the sauce.
Preferably not the poo sauce.
So, thank you, little dude. You taught me well.