Reposted from April 2011, a little more than one year later!
I'm not sure what it was precisely that helped with this revelation, but it dawned on me today that I am the Papi of a toddler. And even more scary than that...I am the Papi of a soon to be two year old toddler!!
Once I got through that realization, I started thinking about what I have learned over the last 19 months. Here are the three lessons I need to take to heart...all courtesy of my toddler.
1. Nothing is as terrible as it seems once you are able to snuggle with Mom.
There are times when you would think her little heart is completely broken...and all because I had to turn off the running water in the bathroom even though eight minutes was obviously not enough time to wash her little tiny hands. The tears are immediate, the crying loud enough to wake up the neighbors, and the look she gives me is enough to make me feel like the worst Papi in the world!! I explain the fact that although it is fun washing our hands, we were now wasting water, and that isn't a practice we have in our house. She cries louder, maybe flails a bit, and I have to carry a kicking and screaming little one downstairs so Mom can ask what terrible thing happened to make her so sad. Usually the only thing that will cause her to calm down after this life-wrenching event is to snuggle with Mom for a little one-on-one time.
Sometimes life throws a curveball that beams you in the side of the head and it HURTS! It knocks the breath out of you, it leaves you a stunned, it causes your ear to ring, and most of all, it really makes you mad...at the pitcher who threw it, at the catcher who called the play, or at yourself for not ducking fast enough. It's enough to make you want to scream at the top of your lungs, or perhaps it makes you feel like crying until you can't cry any more, or maybe you just want to hate the world around you. When those events cause a bump in the road, have the anger (within reason), or the tears, or even the hatred (for the actions, not the people), and then decide what or who is the one thing or one person that will make things feel OK again. Is it going for a walk? Is it going to a batting cage? Is it blogging? Is it washing the car? Find that thing that makes you feel like you really can go on for the next minute, the next hour, the rest of the day, and on through the rest of your life. Snuggle in with that person or activity and gain back your equilibrium. The world will begin to look a little better after a few deep calming breaths.
2. Asking for help is perfectly acceptable.
I know there will come a time in her life that she will want to do absolutely everything by herself. That's why I cherish those moments when I ask "Do you need Papi to help?" and she agrees. "Do you need Papi to open your cheese stick." "Do you need Papi to help blow your nose?" "Can Papi help you get your boots on so we can go outside?" Often, she will try to do something once or twice on her own and then ask (or babble) for my assistance. When we get to the step at the end of the walkway, she just sticks her hand up in the air assuming someone will help her down the step.
I'm not sure why it is that asking for assistance can be equated to being needy or being a wimp or whatever the latest thoughts are. Wouldn't it be a crazy world if everyone could do everything? We wouldn't need teachers, doctors, auto mechanics, bankers, barristas, vets, doulas, engineers, technicians, and so on. Actually, I think it would get pretty annoying. I don't want to know everything. I don't want to be able to do everything. Do I like looking like a fool when I ask for help? No. That's why I make sure that when I do ask for assistance, I ask people I trust and people I respect. I like knowing I have people in my life who will assist me with keeping my cars running, or who will give me financial advice, or who will loan me a tool (or three), or who will help me put up a basketball pole, or who will just sit and listen to me tell about a crappy day at the office. Surround yourself with people who are willing to help you survive in this world. Sometimes you can hold your hand up in the air and just know in your heart that there will be someone to help you down the step.
3. It's the little unnoticed things that are the most important things.
I laugh every time we (ever so slowly) walk up the steps and she stops mid step to hand me the teeniest piece of wrapper she found on the next step. Or when we are on a walk in the neighborhood and we have to go back three steps to pick up the part of a piece of mulch she saw on the sidewalk. I have tried to justify it in my head as "of course she noticed that...she's closer to the ground." But you know, it has nothing to do with her relativity to the ground. It has everything to do with her perception on what is important. To her, at that very minute, the little tear-off piece of the yogurt tube is enough for her to stop mid-walk, bend down, pick it up, and then take it to the "Ra" to throw away.
At the end of the day, ask yourself what things stand out in your mind about your day. Did you experience any life-changing events? Did a conversation you had improve a working relationship? Were you able to help one (or more) of your kids feels they were the most important person in the world today? Were you able to ease someone's burden by selflessly giving up your seat on the ride home? If we look at our entire day, it might not seem all that impressive. It might have been a day like any other...the same people, the same places, the same coffee, the same work assignment, the same co-workers, the same ole, same ole. When life starts to feel like Groundhog Day, take a closer look at the tiny items around you. Find that little rock in the street. Pick up that little pill bug and hand it to your brother. Stop and point to the dog across the street and smile. Those little things make the difference between an average day and a good day. They will also make the difference between a good day and a great day. Be in the now and notice the little items around you.
It is amazing to me all the teachers in my life. Right now, I love my little 19-month old teacher the best. I strive to laugh as often and as loud as she does. I try to be as patient as she is with every day activities. I want to be as inquisitive about everything new and old. She has a lot to learn...but I think she has a lot to teach. I want to be an "A" student at her school.
Give it a try...notice today something you didn't notice yesterday. Remember it tomorrow.