Toddlers may be pretty new to life, but there are a great many things that they do better than adults.
Here’s a ridiculous (but true) example: squats. Have you ever seen a toddler squat? My son frequently gets down into a low squat, and then just sits there, hovering his little butt above the ground as he plays with his Matchbox parking garage set. He’ll sit like that for minutes at a time, unmoving, completely balanced, and entirely unaware of how amazing this ability actually is.
I, meanwhile, have spent countless hours practicing this type of perfect balance in yoga with considerably less success, and how many daily squat challenges have I gone into with the best intentions, only to fail? Too many to count.
Beyond their incredible squatting skills, though, toddlers can teach us a few things about living a happier and more fulfilling life — if we would only take the time to pay attention. Recently, I seriously considered my son’s day-to-day actions, and after questioning his sanity on more than one of those actions, I realized that he’s doing this whole life thing way better than I am.
I realized that I have been repeatedly overcomplicating things; overthinking my actions and intentions, and I’m stunting my own personal growth and enjoyment in life by doing so.
He, on the other hand, is pretty clear on what he wants, what he hates, what he is afraid of in life, and he responds to those things in remarkable ways.
And he’s only been around for a little under two years.
I think it’s pretty clear that if we could just stop internalizing and fretting for just one minute, and examine what our smaller selves are doing every day, we might be able to learn a few things from them.
#1 — Be brave
Toddlers try everything at least once.
They appear to have no fears whatsoever, and considering how we develop those fears in life, it’s very likely that they just don’t exist yet. I’m not sure when this is learned in our lifetime, but as adults, we have fears that prevent us from enjoying the beautiful, potentially exciting world we live in — whether those fears are logical or not.
I, for instance, have an illogical fear of bears. Understandable, sure — they’re big and scary and powerful and they have been known to munch on people before — but it’s illogical nonetheless. Seeing a bear in the wild is a rarity in itself, but being attacked by one is an even rarer occurrence.
Why, then, am I so afraid of bears? It’s a mystery. Maybe my overactive imagination decided that being mauled and unceremoniously eaten by a grizzly is a horrifying enough way for me to envision my family and I meeting our untimely demise.
My brain, by the way, conjures up random, awful images at times that illustrate my children dying before my eyes in monstrous ways — a mother’s fears are insane, and generally unfounded.
But they’re still powerful.
Toddlers have no such hang-ups. They can enjoy their lives regardless of the 17,953 ways they could injure or kill themselves while doing it. Toddlers ask themselves questions like what happens if I hurl myself down these stairs? How fast can I run down this rocky, brambly hill? How far can I jump from the top of the playground?
They never stop for a second to consider the possibility of personal harm.
They ask different questions than we do, and their questions are, frankly, better. Taking risks and asking how far we can go, rather than contemplating the bad results of our actions, helps us learn our limits and abilities.
So hurl yourself into life with the same abandon your toddler shows on the playground. Not only will you see what you can do, but you’ll probably have more fun doing it.
#2 — Demand snacks
I’m not saying that we should freely eat french fries all day without considering the health issues that might eventually conjure up, but hear me out.
Toddlers always demand — and often get — the snacks they want, and they’re unapologetic about doing it. They know what they want in life, and sure, it changes day to day (and sometimes minute to minute) but they’re certain of it.
They frequently ask for things that they probably have no business demanding, but they do it because they can. They might not get what they’re asking for, but that doesn’t stop them from demanding it.
In my son’s case, it also doesn’t stop him from walking over to the fridge, pulling open the produce drawer and taking the tub of strawberries whenever he gets a hankering for them. The child knows what he wants and he’s going to get it, every time, without fail.
Not that you should let your toddler get what they want all the time, and learning about disappointment is extremely valuable, but knowing what you want and repeatedly going for it is going to make it that much more likely that you’ll succeed.
#3 — Fight like you mean it
Toddlers fight kinda dirty.
When little Tommy takes Polly’s toy hammer, you can bet your ass that she’s going to kick up a fuss. She was playing with it first, and she wasn’t done with it, dammit.
It’s hers. You know it’s hers because of the alarm sound that comes from her tiny, tensed-up and angry body the moment Tommy’s grubby fingers yank the toy out of her hand.
Toddlers fight for what’s theirs, tooth and nail. So many of us have been taught to be agreeable; to keep a low, quiet profile. We’ve been taught to be polite, to not make a fuss, to let the other kids have a go with the hammer; then and only then can we pick it up — we get a turn after it’s been universally discarded.
Toddlers don’t do that. At least, they don’t do that well.
Toddlers know that if you have been wronged, you should fight for it. And sometimes, that means fighting dirty. That means being loud. It’s easier to be agreeable and sweet, but there’s a time and a place for that. Also, by making a stand, you might just inspire someone else to stop being a victim and fight for what’s theirs, too.
#4 — Think very highly of yourself
Have you ever seen a three-year-old talk to their reflection in the mirror?
It’s adorable. It’s also enlightening.
They never poke at their chubby bellies or pull down on their cheeks to see if they’re getting jowly. They do the opposite, in fact — they grin. They blow kisses. They pose and giggle. They make out with the mirror, sometimes.
They absolutely love the beautiful face smiling back at them in the mirror.
We should take a lesson from our toddlers in this department. Instead of picking apart our appearances and putting ourselves down, we should try to focus on our positive traits. We should blow kisses to our smiling reflections, too, not to become narcissistic or self-centred, but to simply avoid wasting time and energy criticizing every perceived problem with our appearances.
That person looking back at you in the mirror deserves love and admiration. Treat your reflection the way your toddler treats theirs.
#5 — Run like the wind
Remember that Friends episode, where Rachel didn’t want to run with Phoebe because the way Phoebe ran was “weird?”
Phoebe ran that weird way because it was more fun. Toddlers know how to have fun no matter what they do. It’s a good thing, too, because when they move, and when they learn how to run, they seem to have a blast — and it might just be the cutest thing ever.
My son is the king of running. His pudgy little fingers are splayed and he flails madly, grinning at the feel of his little legs pumping and the feel of the wind on his cheeks and in his hair. He thinks he’s flying; I know for certain that I won’t be the one to tell him otherwise.
He genuinely loves to run as fast as he can, and you can see that it takes concentration and complete and utter fearlessness. He needs this fearlessness, too, or he would be too afraid to try.
Sometimes he falls down, epically. Sometimes, he hurts himself. That doesn’t stop him from pumping his legs just as fast when he gets up again and runs, drying his tears in his self-made wind.
So run, if you can. Run like your hair’s on fire. Move your body. Pump your legs — see how fast you can go. Remember when you were a kid, and you would sprint with your friends?
Do you remember feeling like you were flying? I do.
The same applies with dancing, or any other movement we’ve been graced with the ability to do. Wiggle your butt, hop on one foot, twirl like a ballerina — whatever. Just move your body.
I bet it’s been a while since you’ve done that for no other reason than the fun of it. Try it. I guarantee that you’ll smile.
Toddlers are pretty wise about life because of one very simple truth: they’ve barely lived it.
They haven’t learned to fear bears yet, or the benefits of being nice to their peers, or sharing their things. They haven’t been corrupted or emotionally beaten by the negative pieces of living in society yet.
They haven’t been conditioned. Yet. They will, of course, but not yet.
They’re untouched by all of those things, and it shows. They can do things like fly down the slide at the playground (because someone will always be there to catch them) or to demand snacks (because someone is always making sure they’re eating and drinking enough) and to run like the wind (because someone who loves them is never far behind.) We adults have long since lost our parental shadows, our proverbial safety nets, so it’s perfectly natural for certain fears and idiosyncrasies to develop after a time.
But it might help to simplify our lives a bit and take a few notes from our toddlers. Life doesn’t have to be scary all the time, and breaking into a run on your way to work could make your mood go from sour to stellar — as long as you have fun doing it.
So go; live. Run. Dance. Demand snacks. You deserve it all.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
From The Good Men Project on Medium
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