If you’re a parent, or on your way to becoming one, you know that little ones teach us many lessons. No one goes into parenting knowing it all. No matter how many books and blogs you read, how many documentaries you watch, or how many informal chats with all your parent-friends, there’s nothing that can replace experience. While my son just turned 3, I know he’s been teaching me things since day one. I’ve got a slew of information in my brain since he was born, including the many lessons my son taught me before turning 1.
As a toddler, he’s taught me about the importance of both slowing down and keeping up. My son is constantly on the move, exploring the world in his own way as toddlers tend to do. He crawls and ducks under things, he jumps and climbs, and I've definitely realized that he notices things I don’t. Sometimes that means chasing him and going full speed, which essentially reminds me to stop and have a little fun. Other times, he moves slowly, or stops to stare at something I would never even give a second glance to, and I'm reminded to take a few moments to pay attention and focus on details when they matter to me, as they matter to him.
So as you might imagine, I’ve also picked up on lots of little life lessons in the years priors to my son's toddlerhood. Here are a few:
The World Does Not Revolve Around Me
The first thing having a baby will do is quickly make you forget all about your ego. If you ever had any delusions that life was all about you, forget it immediately. My son immediately reminded me that life is most certainly not all about me. Not even close.
Always Be Willing To Learn Something New
Like many baby boys, my son had a tendency to pee up in the air during diaper changes. Eventually, I started placing a baby wipe right over him just as I took off his diaper. I suppose he didn’t teach me this directly, but it’s something I learned because of him and it’s a piece of advice I give every single one of my new mom friends.
Never, Ever Take Sleep For Granted
My kid has deprived me of more sleep than anyone or anything else in the world. His existence has engrained in me how absolutely ridiculous I ever was to question a nap or an opportunity to sleep in. Never take sleep for granted. Period.
Always Be Prepared
This lesson took a little while to stick. However, when you’re out with your baby and they end up peeing all over themselves (or worse), you learn pretty quickly that backup supplies are always handy. And my son? well, he liked to make some messes in those early days.
Always Try To Make The Best Of Things
I have never done more laundry in my entire life than after I became a mom. Babies go through so much clothing thanks to spit-up, drool, pee, poop, and any other bodily function you can think of. But I often involve him in the process, and seeing his smile makes the laundry suck a whole lot less.
Keep A Number Of Diversions Handy For Emergencies
Diversions are essential to new parent life. Babies are awesome because they are curious about everything. Banana? Amazing! Spinning top? Holy moley! Bubbles? You’re blowing my mind!
There's Nothing Wrong With Going The Easy Route
My mother insisted I purchase these Dr. Brown’s baby bottles that my brother got for his daughters. You know what? They're pretty good. However, the two extra pieces that you need to wash with teeny, tiny brushes absolutely suck. After we had to buy some emergency cheap bottles while on vacation, my son made me realize that he didn’t actually need the fancy bottles. He drank from any just fine and was fortunate to never get colic.
Time Will Fly
Everyone always told me that babies grow fast, but I didn’t really understand it until I went through the process myself. My son has always been tall and long for his age, and has grown considerably over time.
You Can Be Both Weak And Strong, Simultaneously
The main thing my son taught me in his first, crucial year of life was how delicate and strong he is all at once. My son was born sick and struggled to live in his first few days, then spent roughly two months recovering. Any minor changes could set him back an extra week in the NICU. He was so very fragile in his isolette, and had to be handled like the most delicate little being.
And yet, his body withstood everything, including a seriously large number of medications. As he got older, he was still that bizarre combination of weak and strong, helpless yet tough. It’s so very strange to see how much babies can be both all at once, but it also made me realize that we all are. I can break down easily, have an awful day, or a bad anxiety attack, but I can also raise a child, be a friend to those going through hard times, give back to my community, and survive the loss of my first child and still live. Fearful and fierce all at once. What an incredible lesson.