Life Lessons from a Toddler

The Top Ten Things My Stepson Has Taught Me...

When we have children, we often understand that it is our job to teach them things. We teach them how to walk, and talk, and love, and live. Rarely do we realize that these tiny, innocent people can actually teach us something too.

Becoming a stepmom has turned into my greatest joy. I've had the privilege over the last year to watch him grow and be an active part of his life. He's learned things from me and now...I'm learning things from him.

1.) Express yourself.

My stepson has a huge personality, especially for a two year-old. He's silly, loyal, thoughtful, and patient. He feels everything so deeply, and he can't help but express those feelings because he doesn't understand anything different. Even if someone on TV is in trouble, he often cries "Oh, no!" and puts his hands on his cheeks in fear.

As we grow older, we sometimes forget to express how we feel so openly. We're afraid of getting hurt or sounding stupid and we end up suppressing so much. When you stop worrying about what other people think about you and only care about what you think about yourself...the world becomes a much happier place.

2.) If at first you don't succeed...

Try, try again. Unsurprisingly, kids don't get a lot of things right on their first try. Why should they? Everything is new to them. My stepson doesn't know the meaning of "give up," he can't say it, and he's certainly never done it. Yes, I've seen him get frustrated and confused, but that's never stopped him from trying.

Of course as an adult I've given up. I've given up trying, or caring, or hoping on several occasions, simply because it was easier than fighting with the world. But as I see this child consistently work at his goals, no matter how insignificant they may seem, I realize that I'm doing myself a disservice by not doing the same thing. Life is hard, but you can't give up on it, because the good stuff is always on the other side. 

3.) Be proud of yourself.

Lately it feels like you need to be very careful with your pride. If you have too much, you might come off as pompous or egotistic. If you don't show it at all then you appear to not have passion.

My stepson doesn't think about these things. He immediately exclaims how proud he is of himself. Whether it's learning something new or finally succeeding at something difficult, he's always ready to show himself off. And he should be proud because it's important to recognize your successes in life...they will only help push you forward.

4.) It's OK to be picky sometimes, don't settle.

When this kid wants something, he stands firm in his choice. Nothing less will do. Whether it's the snack he wants to eat or the toy he tells you to play with, his mind is made up because that's what he wants.

Now apply this to your adult life. Don't allow yourself to settle for anything less than what you deserve. Be it your career, your partner, your values...settling will only lead to regrets. Live the life you want because you want it. There's no one else who will know you better than yourself.

5.) People can surprise you.

We live in a world where we no longer greet our neighbours or chat with people in the grocery store. We're so quick to judge people without ever getting to know them. But when I watch this kid interact with the world I begin to see just how wrong my judgement can be.

He has no bias, has no pre-meditated thoughts about the person he just said "Hi" to. He may not know them, but why can't he? He always receives at least a smile and sometimes makes a friend. If we had more faith in people as adults, we can open up opportunities for so many fulfilling relationships.

6.) Be open to change.

At two years old, my stepson can handle change better than most adults I know. He's always going back and forth between mom, dad, grandparents, daycare, etc. It's a lot for a little boy, especially at an age where he is particularly attached to his mom. But he is such a trooper through it all. Even if he resists at first, he always comes around.

He's learning earlier than most that life is ever-changing and you have to learn to go with the flow. You can do your best to make a plan for your future, but you will inevitably have to deal with change.

7.) Cherish your loved ones.

While this seems pretty obvious, it's not always what we do. It's easy to take your friends and family for granted. They've always just been there, you rarely think about any alternative. My stepson however, lives the alternative.

As he goes from one home to another and realizes that he won't be seeing mom, dad, etc. for a short while, he always has a small moment of sadness. But then he spends the rest of his time fully embracing whoever he's with. He never loses a moment to show someone that he loves them, and he's taught me to do the same.

8.) Love the skin you're in.

I gotta say, no one cares less about body image than a toddler fresh out of the bath! This kid gets an instant urge to run around the second he's in nothing but a diaper or completely naked.

While adults are out there worrying about what people think about them...he is patting his little round belly with love. When you have no concept of society's standards of beauty, you open yourself up to be free and confident. The only standards you'll follow after that are your own.

9.) You can be your own company.

A little bit of alone time never hurt anyone. I find there's a constant need in today's society to be surrounded by people...to have the approval of others. I know so many people who don't know how to be alone, so they're constantly seeking attention.

But taking a moment to cut out the noise is so important, and even toddlers need it from time to time. He'll take time to go off and play by himself or quietly watch TV and you know he's taken care of for the time. He needs his space, and so do you. Have a moment to process, or think...or not think! Do something for yourself and embrace being comfortable with yourself.

10.) Have fun!

Work, relationships, finances, health...there are a million reasons why we fail to have fun in our lives. We get bogged down with so much negativity that we forget how beautiful life can be. My little man almost always has a smile on his face no matter what. He runs, jumps, plays, makes funny faces, screams...all of it and more brings him such joy. You can't help but have fun when you're around him.

Become that kind of force of nature for yourself. Embrace the fun, and the joy—you'll be rewarded with happiness.

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