The Tao of Toddlers

Daniel was a bit of a late walker. He was always very cautious. He was never in a hurry. He didn’t like to fall. It was pretty evident that he could walk, he had the physical ability to walk, he just chose not to walk. He was about 17-months-old when he finally started walking. Then things got real. We officially had a toddler. He went from walking across a room to running across the yard in no more than a week. He hasn’t stopped since.

As any parent of a toddler knows, life can be chaotic. Busy. Stressful. Messy. You’re constantly saying no. “No, that’s not for you.” “No, don’t eat dog food.” “No, don’t touch that.” It’s so easy to get lost in the no’s and the mess, that you sometimes miss all these discoveries your child is making. If my adult sense of cynicism has taught me anything, it’s that a child’s sense of wonder is likely a limited time engagement and I don’t want to miss it. I want to see what this little boy, who’s been in this world less than two years, can teach me about life.

When Daniel started talking, you could see this little sparkle in his eyes when he learned a new word and it clicked in his mind. He’s familiar with the object, he’s already connected feelings to the object and then he learns it has a name. It can be anything. For example, we’ve read books to Daniel since he was a newborn, so he’s been familiar with books for his entire existence. But then he asked, “What is that?” And I told him it’s a book. His eyes lit up and he repeated, “Book!” Everything is exciting.

When Daniel goes to sleep, he knows what’s about to happen and acts accordingly. Nine times out of ten, I ask him if he’s sleepy and wants to go to bed and he says yes. (The one other time, he runs away saying, “No, no, no, no, no, no.”) After I scoop him up and head to his nursery, he says his goodbyes. In the beginning, it was just, “Bye, dog. Bye, Dad.” Now it’s more like, “Bye, Cash. Bye, book. Bye, animals. Bye, toys. Bye, light. Bye, Mom.” Everything is significant.swingblog

I know the summer’s halfway through and I’m still lamenting about what a harsh winter we had. But, it was bad. As a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve never stayed at home quite that much. It was so bitterly cold, I felt guilty taking the little guy out unless it was absolutely necessary. So we stayed inside and stared at the ice and snow and imagined melting it all away with our yearning for Spring. As soon as the weather improved, we appreciated what a treat it was just to go outside and to take a walk without tiptoeing around the ice.

Now Daniel walks to the backdoor, fumbles with the doorknob and exclaims, “Outside! Outside! Outside!” Once we get outside, he is fascinated by everything. Grass is prickly, but he likes to run through it anyway. If he hears an airplane fly overhead, he points upward and says, “Airpane! Airpane!” (He’s really close to being a great impersonator of Tattoo from Fantasy Island.) No matter how much of a hurry I’m in, he has to pick up at least one rock from the gravel near our garage, kneel down, say, “Hi rock” and then after I tell him we need to go, gently put the rock back with the other millions of rocks and say, “Bye, rock.”

This acknowledgment and seemingly intrinsic appreciation for nature reminds me of the book, The Tao of Pooh. In the book, the principles of Taosim and simple living are described with stories and dialogue featuring a Western Taoist who happens to also be Winnie the Pooh. Pooh just is, right?

“There are things about ourselves that we need to get rid of; there are things we need to change. But at the same time, we do not need to be too desperate, too ruthless, too combative. Along the way to usefulness and happiness, many of those things will change themselves, and the others can be worked on as we go. The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and not lose sight of it.” 
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Of course because I’m Daniel’s mom, I tend to think he’s pretty special. But I don’t think he’s a little baby Animist who finds extraordinary significance in ordinary things. It’s just that he notice things, pretty much everything. To him, so many things are new and so many things are just amazing. I love to squat down to his level, ask him what he sees and listen to him as he looks around and points out things he can name.

One night last week, I was outside watching Daniel play in the front yard with my husband before bedtime. He was running across the sidewalk and then just stopped, suddenly. He leaned his head back, pointed to the glowing ball in the sky and asked, “What is that?” My husband told him it was the moon. Daniel had read about the moon in his books, seen pictures of the moon, but due to his early bedtime, had never actually really seen the moon. He stared at it silently for a minute. Then he waved and said, “Hi, moon!” He was sure to give the moon a proper goodbye shouting, “Bye, moon! Bye, moon!” as he went inside to get ready for bed.

Daniel waving to the moon.
Daniel waving to the moon.

When was the last time you really looked at the moon? When was the last time you just stood in silence and looked in wonder at the world around you?

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