As I’ve been observing my toddler’s budding personality, I have found that parenthood has this sometimes bizarre side where you watch aspects of yourself outside of yourself. I see LM do something funny and laugh at himself. I, who have been known to laugh at my own jokes, can’t help but smile and think, “Ha, he got that from me.” When we enter new situations, especially with new people, my little boy will hold onto me and watch with hesitancy before deciding to join in. (That is, if he decides to join in.) Though years under my belt has helped me push through my own timidness, I can still feel it to my core and I empathetically think, “Oh man, he got that from me.”
The other day we had a family outing to the park. LM was amusing himself by playing with pebbles in the path. Up ahead I could see a slide, which is something he loves. Knowing that the slide will make him happy and that if I let him continue to play with the pebbles, they will eventually end up in his mouth, I first try coaxing him to follow me. In true toddler fashion, he ignores me. My patience wears thin and eventually I just pick him up and carry my kicking and screaming child over to the slide. In this moment, I had a small epiphany that his stubborn reaction is so me. Once we get to the slide and I set him down, the tantrum stops and he is happy to go up and down the slide for the next half an hour.
I can’t help but think about how many times life has thrown some plot twists into the mix and I have dug my heels in trying to resist the changing force. Change rarely shows up as a unicorn singing a joyful telegram of what is up ahead and then offers you a bouquet of rainbow-colored lollipops. (If this actually happened, I think I would freak out and insist on having a drug test.) Change comes in brewing storms and cyclone force winds. However, often in hindsight, I see that change has pushed me to a better place, a better self, a better situation.
When LM and I enter new situations and he buries his head in my shoulder to hide from the newness of it all and I find myself whispering into his ear, “It will be ok. We can be brave, little one, we can be brave.”
I never say, “You can be brave.” It always comes out as “We.” Perhaps that’s because the advice and comfort we give others is generally the echoes we long to hear ourselves. “We can be brave, little one, we can be brave.”