Sometimes I stop seeing the world through the eyes of my son. At these times, life is much more difficult than it would be otherwise. You may be able to identify with these desperate parent-of-a-toddler thoughts.
“Why are you so interested in going up and down steps!? Just sit and play with your toys!”
“You are fine without me! Just sleep! I will come if you need me!”
“We’re stopping this activity to go do something so much more fun. Why can’t you understand?!”
“I will pick you up when I am done. Can’t you wait one minute?!”
Babies can be so difficult. They’re needy and often fussy and simply don’t understand adult schedules and preferences.
In these moments when at all possible, I stop and take a breath of patience. Then I begin to try to see what my son sees or feel what he feels. How frustrating it must be to work so long and so hard on a skill (like walking up stairs) if I’m not willing to help him practice! When I stop clinging to the way I view the world, for those precious moments, I’m amazed by the patience and determination tiny children have.
I’ve thought at times, “Babies have it made! They can sleep all day if they want and have someone attentive to every whim. Why would they fuss?”
But it’s not so simple.
Between normal growth (which–if you remember your teenage growth spurts–can hurt a bit), teeth/shots/sickness, a crazy, unpredictable world, and new developmental changes that often bring frustration between what he wants to do and what he can do, life is not always easy for a child. Children live firmly in the present, and for my one-year-old, this means he can’t “wait one minute” or understand that the next activity will be just as fun. Sometimes it’s like he’s just striving for a bit of control over his life.
As much as I try to create freedom and a safe environment to limit telling my son “no,” I still have to stop him often from endangering himself or because we have to go somewhere or do something else. This happens often without me having to create discipline situations. He simply doesn’t see the world the way I do, and he can’t right now. In All Joy and No Fun, Jennifer Senior points out our adult-centered view of childhood antics when she says,
The grown-up response is to put a stop to the child’s mischief, because that’s the adult’s job, and that’s what civilized living is all about. Yet parents intuit, on some level, that children are meant to make messes, to be noisy, to test boundaries.
Seeing the world through my child’s eyes is not child-centered; it’s not about making the world revolve around him. Rather it’s taking seriously the fact that Jesus tells us to become like little children in our faith. There’s much we can learn from them. And it’s also taking seriously the command to love my neighbor as myself. If I am willing to see a difficult situation from the perspective of a friend in order to understand her, how much more willing I should be to look at situations from my toddler’s perspective rather than jumping to my own conclusions about his motives and desires (“Oh, he’s just fussy!”).
So I keep studying him to find out what delights him, what frustrates him, and what he’s learning. I get him a bowl and spoon so he can practice stirring while I cook because he’s frantically motioning toward the spoons. Just this morning, he pointed to his John Deere PJ shirt and said, “Da-da” and because of his recent fascination with a particular book, I knew he was saying “tractor.” His face lit up when I said, “Yeah! That’s a tractor!”
As the next generation, our kids are important, and I have much to learn from my son’s persistence, patience, and wonder (though these sometimes reveal themselves in fussing or tantrums). My own desire to learn may teach him that all important lesson of walking a mile in another man’s shoes. Sometimes those shoes are just a lot smaller than what we’re accustomed to.
Shockingly, I’m still plodding along with my 31 Day series! We’ll see if I finish by the start of the next one…