By Maureen Hart
Back when I was pregnant with my child three decades ago, I remember driving home from work and telling the unborn baby about all the wonderful things awaiting on the outside.
“You’re going to love fireworks and the Fourth of July” I told her that summer.
“Wait till you see pumpkins and bonfires and Thanksgiving” I told her in the autumn.
“Christmas is going to be your favorite,” I told her that winter. “Wait till you see the tinsel and shining ornaments and presents.”
After her birth, I savored all of the opportunities to show her the first snowfall, vivid autumn leaves, fluffy puppies, icicles, just-baked cookies, and all the other wonders of the universe.
Then she grew up, and I forgot a lot of that wonder.
Now I have a grandson who is 20 months old and he is teaching me all over again.
I’d forgotten that water is the best thing on the planet. Not just for drinking. No, the little one has shown me that rain is an absolute miracle. There you are, playing with a toy truck, and suddenly water droplets come down. My grandson doesn’t want to run away from it – he wants to embrace it, along with every puddle. I thought the kitchen sink was for washing off dishes, but Padraig has taught me that it is for playing with the faucet, which can run hot OR cold, and for spraying everyone in sight in a fit of giggles. On a very lucky day I let him take a bath in it and he is deliriously happy.
I make use of all my kitchen utensils without a thought, but to a toddler, the whisks, measuring cups and spoons, pots and pans are even more wonderful than Fisher-Price toys. As are yard sticks, screwdrivers, Scotch tape, straws, rubber spatulas, pens (oh, especially pens), keys, playing cards, and remote controls.
When he leaves our house at night time, he looks up in the sky and shouts, “Moon!” with total awe. Why don’t we all shout “Moon” when we spot its shining presence? Probably because we’re used to it. We know the moon will be there on most nights. But to the little one, it is a constant surprise worth celebrating. Remember in the movie “Moonstruck” when Grandpa says, “Luna, La Bella Luna”? We should all be doing that.
What about the trucks and cars that speed along our street. We think they are a nuisance, but Padraig is delighted to watch them from the window. He thinks they are there to entertain, just like the miniature models he pushes around the carpet.
What about music? When Padraig hears a song from “Frozen” or the guys from “Celtic Thunder” (go figure), he stops everything he is doing to dance and sing and play it all over again.
Blowing bubbles has become my hobby. It’s amazing really. Bubbles floating in the air. The toddler and the dog competing to break them. Who knew you could have so much fun with a plastic bottle from the Dollar Store?
Food. While most of us really like to eat, do we take the unabashed joy that a toddler takes as s/he marvels not just at the taste, but the texture and color? There’s nothing creamier than a yogurt, or crunchier than a pretzel, or as soothing as a cool cup of water with ice cubes. Do we take the time to really savor all of these simple things? Imagine that you are tasting such delights as carrots or hummus or pizza or chicken for the very first time. That’s what toddlers do on a continual basis. Our Podge loves quesadillas and fish and green beans and strawberries and I hope he never loses that delight.
There are some things Padraig is not fond of. He’d rather run around in a diaper than all the snappy clothes his parents buy for him, and let’s be honest, it does feel better. He likes freedom because so much of his universe is a big “no!” Don’t touch the stove, the light switch, the television controls, the crystal, the dog bowl….everything must seem off-limits to a little one.. Having a big park or a big room to just frolic in must seem like the most delicious feeling in the world.
There are a few things the little man likes that I am not so fond of, to be honest. He thinks creepy crawling bugs are fascinating. He’s still learning to distinguish between rocks and dog poop (big, big NO!). He’ll happily eat the wrapping on a piece of cheese if you don’t move fast enough to peel it and anything dropped on the floor is fair game for the mouth. He thinks ice cubes make a great floor decoration now that he can open the bottom drawer of the refrigerator and help himself.
What our grandson takes the most delight in, however, should teach us all a lesson. He loves the people in his life. He adores his Mama and Daddy, his grandparents (Mimi, Gaga, Nana and PopPop), his aunts and uncles, his cousins, his little friends at day care, his neighbors (human and canine), and pretty much everybody he meets. He doesn’t see age or color, he doesn’t care about their political beliefs or biases. He just wants to be loved and give love, to jump into somebody’s lap, to show off his new words and skills, to be read a book or taught a song. At this age, he assumes everybody else is eager to do these things. He isn’t afraid or jaded or prejudiced.
If you have a child or a grandchild, a niece or nephew, a neighbor, and you are not observing all of these wonderful lessons of innocence, you are missing out on one of the most spectacular experiences in life. Children take us back to the beginning, when everything is new and shiny and exciting. This time around, I hope I don’t forget.