Lessons from a toddler

Thanksgiving is behind us, and I am thankful for that. Between the pre-meal munching, the actual feast, the gratuitous post-feast noshing, I feel as stuffed as, well, a Thanksgiving turkey. And don’t get me started on the leftovers, which somehow taste better the second time around.

Black Friday sales aren’t held when they are because many folks don’t have much else to do the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday takes place when it does because on the day after Thanksgiving many people notice that their clothes have suddenly become too tight to wear. This is why many Black Friday shoppers are seen sporting “casual attire,” otherwise known as “super-stretchy sweatpants.”

My wife and I spent Thanksgiving visiting with our toddler grandson and his parents. We relearned the two main rules of being a toddler:

1. Never walk when you can run, and

2. Never be quiet when you can be making noise. Any kind of noise will do.

It’s every toddler’s dream to do both things at once. This would obviously involve running while making a racket. But if the powers that be have commanded you to sit still, there’s no reason why you can’t be making some sort of noise. After all, it’s the toddler’s sworn duty.

We spent a pleasant day of overeating to the point of discomfort at our son’s in-laws’ home. Our grandson’s cousin, Charlie, and his parents were also there, which meant that there were two toddlers on the premises.

The house was extremely nice and very capacious but was nonetheless filled with noise, a constant din of shouts and giggles and clapping. And that was just the adults who were watching the Huskers versus the Hawkeyes football game.

The twosome of toddlers easily out noised the adults. Even though the toddlers were often in another room or down in the basement, they created more clamor than a herd of stampeding wildebeests. Based on my scientific observations, I have come to the conclusion that two toddlers aren’t twice as noisy as one. My research proves that two toddlers are at least three times as raucous as one of the little tykes.

I don’t know what propels toddlers, but their source of energy appears to be inexhaustible. If we could harness just a small percentage of this energy, we could keep our nation’s lights burning brightly for a hundred years or more.

For example, one afternoon I accompanied our grandson and his parents on a walk to a nearby playground. After trying out every piece of playground equipment, the little guy espied a soccer ball in the far distance. He loves soccer, so he sped off at a dead run in the direction of the ball, which was a faint white speck on the horizon.

His teeny legs churned into a blur until he and his daddy reached the ball. Using a combination of kicks and throws, the little dude quickly herded the ball back to the playground area where he continued to kick the luckless sphere for nearly an hour. I became exhausted just from watching him.

My wife has her own theory regarding the energy imbalance between toddlers and adults. She says that we used up all of our energy when we were kids, which is why we have so little of it now. This sounds as plausible as anything I’ve heard from the scientific community.

If a small child is temporarily prohibited from running — such as during bath time — the rules of toddlerhood state that he or she should be making some sort of noise. A good example of this would be jabbering at or singing to your food while you eat. The skilled toddler will sing or say something to each individual morsel as it makes its way from the plate to the mouth. Repetition is fine, but making sense is strictly optional.

One relatively quiet afternoon, our grandson was lying beneath a dining room chair (as one does) and peeling some sort of sticker from the underside of the chair’s seat. A tune arose from underneath the chair, a melody that included such lyrics as “Happy birthday to you,” “Ho, ho, ho,” and “Twinkle, twinkle little star,” all strung together in the opening line.

My wife and I sometimes dispute one another’s listening choices, but we agreed that the dining room floor serenade was music to our ears.

There is much to be learned from the example that toddlers set. Sing whenever you feel like it. Pursue your goals with gusto. There’s no shame in taking an afternoon nap.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to practice my hokey pokey dance moves.

— Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at http://Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.


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