By Dawn Onley
My two-year-old son excitedly runs up to the garage door after he gets out of the car and begs me, in that whiny, pleading way toddlers have about them, to open it. “Garage door!” he exclaims, as if seeing it for the first time. “Open, mommy. Garage door.”
When the door goes up, he stands there intently studying it as if it’s the coolest invention he has ever seen. Which, granted, at two, it may be. He then steps inside and begs me to let him hit the button to lower the door. After it’s lowered, he shouts “Yay!!!” and claps.
He does this same routine, with increased enthusiasm, each day. Whenever he’s outside. Despite whether the garage door needs to be opened or not. Wanting to engage what may someday be a budding engineering mind (and also so I don’t have to hear him beg to open the garage door a hundred more times), I oblige him.
He’s the same way about learning new words. If anyone says a word that he has never heard before, he will repeat it at least a dozen times throughout that day, to ensure he is pronouncing it right, and he’ll look up at me for confirmation. My niece called him a mimic the other day because of his toddler propensity to copy whatever someone does. And to prove her point, I got to hear “Mommy … mimic” for the rest of the day.
When I walk him to the park, he stops me to inquire about the airplane flying in the sky, the birds chirping, rabbits hopping and squirrels climbing. He stops the neighbors walking their dogs to show them that he also knows how to bark. He meows to the neighbor’s cat. He asks, in mumbled toddler speak, about the girls splashing in the pool, about the ducks waddling around a nearby lake, about the pedestrian bridges, about the flowers and the trees.
These are all steps that a toddler goes through to process and learn new words, and to figure out how stuff works. His curiosity is on overdrive and as I teach him about these things, I’m forced to be in the moment right there with him. I’m forced to engage him as he wants to inquire one minute and the next, he’s grabbing my hands for an impromptu “Ring around the Rosy” and commanding that I actually fall down too, like he does.
On a recent walk, I pondered what life would be like if adults stopped to focus on the moment and how things function from a natural curiosity to learn — eager and fascinated about everything. I thought how cool it’d be if we’d take a break during the course of our day and sing a happy tune, or jump or skip, just because. If we reconnected with that which brings us a child’s joy.
I thought how great it’d be if we saw all that a child sees and we felt their enthusiasm for life.
Kids are inherently spontaneous. Wouldn’t it be great if we became more childlike in how we approached life and learning? If we sang and clapped and danced at whim? If we took off running down the grassy hill, just to feel the wind at our face and the sun on our back?
Can you imagine what a great world that would be?