I don’t remember the last time I slept past 6:30 a.m. I don’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater. I don’t remember the last time I ate a food at my own pace. I don’t remember the last time I went an entire day without changing a poopy diaper. I don’t remember the last time my toddler ate what I prepared him for dinner. Yet, I cannot think of anyone I want to spend more time with this Thanksgiving.
Just when I think I might toss him out the window, he snuggles against me on the couch to watch an episode of Puffin Rock. He gently leans his head on me — the same head he used to ram me an hour ago. He pats me with the same palm he slammed into my nose this morning. How such a destructive creature could exist in such a cute body is a mystery I cannot explain. All I know is I am grateful for him.
I’m gonna take a moment to list why I appreciate this monster-truck-loving, peanut-butter-face-wearing, belly-button-jabbing child. I don’t know what I would do without him. And I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Well, I might consider a massage recliner. The kind they have on display at Costco is the closest to heaven I’ve been.
Anyway, here are five reasons I am thankful for my toddler:
1. Toddlers have a remarkable capacity to let go of things and move on.
For instance, the other day I accidentally smacked him on the chin when the car seat belt slipped causing my hand to bonk him. I felt like crap. He cried, lip quivering, maximizing my guilt. I apologized. And two minutes later he wanted to talk to me about the foxes in his book as if nothing happened. Tiny people are refreshing because they tend to not hold grudges, harbor resentment, and wield bitterness.
2. The kid makes me laugh every day.
Whether it’s giggling at his own farts, stuffing his face with linguini, or his uncanny ability to locate dog poop, he makes me chuckle during the chaos.
The other day, I set him down to walk through the doorway of his “parents’ day out” classroom. He demanded I put his backpack on. I told him it was too heavy. He insisted. I put the straps on his shoulders and let go. He took one and a half steps forward and the backpack pulled him backward to the floor. He dropped like a load of bricks. The teacher smiled. I laughed out loud and felt like the parent of the year.
3. My toddler reminds me why language is such an amazing thing.
Reading children’s books with him has renewed my appreciation for the sound of language. For myself, listening to him repeat sounds and combine syllables into words is the most interesting part of early development. When I’m away from him, I still find myself listening to the sounds of words. And don’t tell anybody this part: I’ve started reading poetry because I love the sounds of children’s books so much.
4. He is teaching me patience.
Oh boy, is he teaching me patience. I thought I was a patient person before his birth, but now I see how much room I had to grow. Leaving the house, getting in the car seat, shopping at the grocery store, attending church, and traveling to see family feels like mobilizing an army. And I just have one child. Much respect for families with multiple kids. I don’t know how you do it.
5. Most importantly, he gives me perspective when I need it most.
He causes me to remember what makes life rich and worth living. Relationships. People. Connection. Just when I think I need other things to make me happy, he reminds the essentials are usually simple and free and natural. Sharing a meal. Bedtime hugs. Reading a book together on the floor. He seems to never forget these things because he isn’t weighed down by any other expectations. I’m grateful to be his father. He is teaching me important lessons.