Life skills I’ve learned from my toddler

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I’ve written a lot about the struggles of raising a toddler. They don’t listen. They doesn’t sleep. They wiggles too much, and scream too much, and drool too much. The list is endless. But at the same time, if I take a step back and really think about toddler actions, I realize they hold some core life skills that I wish I’d never lost.


Here are a few examples.




My toddler, Aspen, liked to climb, and she had a real affinity for the kitchen table. The only way we could keep her off the stupid thing was to flip the chairs over, which, in turn, made our dining room look like some sort of toddler bar fight. Every time Aspen saw the chairs flipped, she screamed, and threw her binky on the ground. I assumed that she’d give up, move on, but she didn’t. Instead she started finding ways to climb on the frames of the chairs, or flip over laundry baskets (usually full of folded laundry) push them next to the table so she could climb on top of it. For several months I had to find creative ways to keep her off the table, and she still found creative ways to get on top of it. Do I, as an adult, think weeks of fits and crafty solutions were worth Aspen’s time? No. However, I must say, if I were as determined in all aspects of my life as Aspen was to stand on my table and pound her little feet, I’d be a much more successful man.


Effective use of non-verbal communication:


According to Kramer, “94% of our communication is nonverbal, Jerry.” I don’t know how accurate this statistic is, but what I can say is that a toddler can say a lot without using any words. Perhaps non-verbal was inaccurate, she screamed a lot. But I will say, I got a surprising amount of information out of my toddler by the inflection of her screams, and the use of her body language. I knew when she was mad (angry screaming), I knew when she was sad, (sorrowful screaming), I knew when she was frustrated (foot stomping screaming), I knew when she was happy (squealy screaming)… you get the idea. This is not to say that her lack of words wasn’t frustrating, but what I can say is that she’s a colorful person, well defined, and expressive. If I had more of those qualities, I’d probably be a CEO.




We have rules in the house. No eating sweets before dinner. No throwing food on the floor. No yelling. Aspen didn’t care about these rules. She, more or less, did whatever the hell she wanted. I must say, as the enforcer of rules, this was really frustrating. For example, I think her M.O. was: “If you’re done with it, throw it on the floor.” I once mopped under the high chair, it took so much elbow grease, that by the time I finished I decided it would’ve been easer to light the dining room on fire and start over. However, I must say, her ability to stick to her guns and get what she wanted was admirable. Once she screamed for a good 45 minutes while tugging at the freezer door. Eventually I cracked and gave her a Popsicle. Taking a page out of Aspen’s book might make me confident enough to ask for that raise.




Aspen wore a cooking pot on her head most of the day as if it were a fashion trend. Once, while at the park, she went running, full speed, at a large scary dog at the park while screaming, “Woof! Woof!” An older kid cut in line at the park, and she tried to push him down. For someone that only stood about 2 feet, she didn’t intimidate easily. In contrast, I’m afraid to get angry at the postal carrier because he might stop delivering my mail out of spite.


Unconditional love:


Sometimes, when I sprawled out on the sofa after a long day at work, Aspen offered me her binky. It was usually soaked in drool and snot, but it’s the thought that counts… right? I mean, it’s difficult to turn down a toddler with a gummy smile, a sweet face, and soft compassionate blue eyes. I once had to place Aspen in a time out for repeatedly turning off the internet (she could reach the button, which means she had to push it… apparently). The moment she got out of her room, she gave me a huge squeeze. One that said, “Even though you punished me, I still love you.” There isn’t much that shook her love for her mother or myself. She loved her siblings. I could hear it in the way she squealed when they came around. I have been known to hold a grudge from time to time. But not Aspen. Her love was unconditional and unbreakable.


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