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6 Important Life Lessons Being a Mother (of a Toddler) Has Taught Me

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Jackson turns 1 1/2 in a few days! He’s clearly not a baby anymore and, while I’ve mourned the end of his infancy, I’m discovering that I much prefer mothering a toddler to mothering a baby. Jackson is endlessly curious, is fast to laugh, and expresses so much love for me and Drew and others that every day I think my heart may explode. That’s not to say that things have necessarily gotten easier, but, for me, they’ve definitely gotten better. And along the way, I’ve learned some pretty important life lessons:

1. Life is short.
Of course, I knew this before having kids, but there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it emotionally. And watching my child grow from a tiny, squishy, wrinkled-up newborn to a real-life walking, talking little kid in a blink of an eye has made the intellectual very emotional for me. It is true what so many parents have said to me: it does go fast. And now, as my grandparents move into their nineties and my parents begin their retired life, I am beginning to feel the fate of my own mortality a bit more acutely. Our lives are mere wisps on a timeline, and now, more than ever, I want to make the most of it.

2. This too shall pass.
One of the great things about life being short and time moving so quickly is that what seems insurmountable today will be a distant memory by next week. And when one stage of a child’s life is particularly challenging, just wait a few days and he’ll have moved on to something else. Even things like colds, which seem to last forever when your young kid has one, rarely last more than two weeks, and if you summon the strength, gather your reserves, ask for and take whatever help is offered, you can get through two weeks, easy.

3. Naps are good.
I was never much of a napper before having Jackson, and, in all honesty, I’m still not. I tend to feel guilty if I sleep in the middle of the day (as if I’m somehow being more productive farting around online or reading a magazine or staring at a TV screen). But on the few occasions I’ve given in to the urge and let myself rest when Jackson does, it feels so, so good. I figure in another year — right about the time he’s giving them up — I will finally embrace the daily nap myself.

4. Details count, but the small stuff isn’t important.
Details, like packing a spare outfit in the diaper bag and bringing some form of ID to the airport, matter. Small stuff, like how it takes a friend two weeks to call you back or you’re out of coffee and have to go to the store first thing in the morning or else forgo your caffeine fix, do not. It took me 36 years to begin to understand this lesson, and if you ask my husband, who has to deal with me first thing in the morning and when I have PMS and when I’m crashing from low blood sugar, I probably still have a ways to go.

5. Curb-side check-in beats all.
When you’re traveling with 600 extra pounds of gear — car seat, booster seat, travel crib, stroller, diapers, and a shit ton of animal crackers — curb-side check-in is just way more convenient than lugging all that crap inside and waiting in line and then dragging it all the way to the checked-bag drop-off. But it turns out it is also cheaper too! Friendly tip: slip the agents a nice tip (say $3-$5 bucks per item you’re checking) and you may just find that they waive your checking fee. While I can’t guarantee anything, this has worked for us every single time we’ve done it (a couple times, the agents even made sure our fees were waived for the return trip as well!).

6. If someone doesn’t like you, who cares?
Watching toddlers interact is awesome because they so clearly wear their hearts on their sleeves. You always know whom they like and whom they don’t like. I’ve seen Jackson be dissed (and do the dissing) lots of times on the playground, and while my heart always cracks a little bit at the sign of anyone rejecting my sweet son, he doesn’t give a flying fuck! Sure, this is likely to change as he ages and social dynamics among his peer set shift, but for now, when someone gives him the what-for, he just shrugs his shoulders and moves on already, without the slightest hint of hurt feelings. Because what’s the point of dwelling on someone who clearly doesn’t recognize awesome when he or she sees it when there are lots of other potential playmates and good times to be had?

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{ 24 comments… add one }

  • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson April 3, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Number 2 is so important to remember. Every time something bad happens in my life I panic like I’ll never recover. I need to just look to other bad things that have happened and realize that they didn’t end me and this newest thing won’t either. Life is cyclical.

  • Classic Classic April 3, 2013, 2:26 pm

    Wow, he looks just like you, Wendy! Looking at the new photo, right below your little photo in the banner– you two look so much alike. What a beautiful kid.

  • Jess Jess April 3, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Love this and love the photo :-)

  • avatar Jenny April 3, 2013, 2:32 pm

    Totally agree with all of this!

    Jackson is SO cute – he looks like such a little boy! And so happy :)

  • gatecrashergirl gatecrashergirl April 3, 2013, 2:33 pm

    There are so many wonderful bits of advice in this list. I feel the need to print it and put it on my wall at work.

    Also- what a little love bug! I love his little smile!

  • avatar GatorGirl April 3, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Wonderful Wendy. Watching your journey (the good and the bad) has made me even more excited for our baby journey (when we get there).

    Also, naps kick butt. I love them. I probably take a nap 3 maybe 4 days a week. They make me SO happy.

  • avatar melikeycheesecake April 3, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Made me tear up! He’s a mini you and oh so cute!!!!!!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • avatar llclarityll April 3, 2013, 4:31 pm

    Love this, great tips!!

    What a cutie, too. How do you say no to a face like that, Wendy?!

  • CatsMeow CatsMeow April 3, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Toddler age is the best!

    I love how kids can sometimes make us “relearn” things that we’ve long forgotten and put things in a new perspective.

  • avatar spark April 3, 2013, 5:28 pm

    LOVE this photo!

  • AKchic_ AKchic_ April 3, 2013, 6:19 pm

    Look back on this post in about a year to two years. Why? When he learns “no” and knows when/how to apply it and won’t stop saying it. When he throws fits of epic proportion in public places because he knows you can’t really do much about it. When he starts saying “no” to naps, and he still very clearly needs one. When he has a sense of humor and understands sarcasm a bit and starts to use it against you.
    Example: Sunday I was playing with Eryx at my mom’s house. He’d been pestering for mac & cheese (I hadn’t made it yet). I asked for a kiss. He eats a booger. This is the conversation that ensued:
    Me: Ew, that’s gross. I thought you wanted mac & cheese, not boogers and cheese.
    Eryx: I eating “Booger King”!
    *shudder* 4 year olds!

    • Dear Wendy Wendy April 3, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Oh, Jackson learned “no” months ago and has been throwing epic tantrums in public like no ones business. He has also started biting me and pulling my hair when he’s mad. Lucky me! And I still like this age better than infancy.

      • Dear Wendy Wendy April 3, 2013, 7:14 pm

        I’m not ready for booger-eating though. Gag.

        • Skyblossom Skyblossom April 4, 2013, 11:00 am

          We call them nose cookies.

          My son didn’t do much of that but my daughter would and so if I saw her with her finger up her nose I’d be matter of fact and send her to wash her hands because I didn’t want the slime out of her nose all over things. But, I didn’t give her any real attention or reaction to it. If I saw nose cookies on her comforter, this happened frequently, I washed it immediately but without much comment. I’d say something like, “Oh, nose cookies. Time for the washing machine.”

  • Skyblossom Skyblossom April 3, 2013, 7:06 pm

    It is a fun age! They are so curious and lively and have a true personality. The downside is the constant vigilance required to keep them safe and by the time they turn 3 you are worn out, needing a break from the nonstop activity. Luckily, at around that age they begin to get a little common sense.

  • avatar SweetPeaG April 4, 2013, 9:54 am

    Cute!
    I always say that I think I will also enjoy being the Mom of a toddler (and child) much more than being the Mom of a small baby. I know people who think this is crazy, because they are just insane over babies. But, really… I love talking to my two year old niece. She knows who I am (calls me “TT”, over Auntie… stinkin’ adorable). She loves clothes, so she will show me each part of her outfit. I just love her to pieces. My few month old nephew is super cute, but he squirms and cries and can’t communicate. I love when they start to be able to talk to you!

  • avatar Emily April 4, 2013, 10:06 am

    Adorable! Love you both! xo

  • Nookie Nookie April 4, 2013, 10:52 am

    Lovely, there’s good stuff there for everyone and it’s all true.

    Toddlers are so much fun, they like to colour and talk about nonsense as much as I do.

    • Skyblossom Skyblossom April 4, 2013, 10:56 am

      One of the things that I think makes toddlers so much fun is that they are interested in everything and find life exciting. So they will stop to watch ants crawling and look at flowers and watch clouds and feel bark and climb over everything and jump up and down and veer out of their way to step in a puddle. They can’t wait to experience everything and they want to share that experience with you every step of the way.

  • avatar kali April 4, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Wendy,

    I shared this list with my daughter who just had her first baby, a boy, four days ago. I hope she takes it to heart as it’s a great list of helpful thoughts. In fact, I often used to remind myself that ‘this too, shall pass.”

    Thank you!

  • avatar Sasa April 4, 2013, 2:19 pm

    Great piece!

  • lemongrass lemongrass April 6, 2013, 9:51 pm

    I love watching Jackson grow up through your articles and photos.

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