Yesterday evening as my 18-month old daughter walked into the living room, whole jalapeño sticking out of her mouth ready to take a bite, I let out a gasp as the realization hit me that our chopping block island was no longer out of her reach. My mind wandered to the knife resting near the veggies where she reached up with chubby little fingers and selected the jalapeño instead. As I asked her to hand mommy the jalapeño, I made a mental note adding to the ever-growing list of hazards I have come to worry over our second child – our wild child.
Our first born was so different. We could go to a park, set her down on a picnic blanket with a couple of toys, and she’d stay there and play with the toys. When she was in the kitchen, she paid no attention to the cabinets or drawers. Whatever was in there was of no interest to her. Our second on the other hand? If it’s not locked shut or nailed down, it’s fair game! Her first words were, “No” and “Get down!”
I sighed as I returned to the kitchen and glanced at the knife. I made a note to tell husband when he got home. We’re running out of places to put things, I thought in exasperation as I placed her into her gated play area. “At least for now, you can’t climb out of here, little missy,” she gave me an odd expression as she licked her lips. “Yeah, I bet that was a little spicy, huh. That’s what happens when you eat things that aren’t on your plate,” I said.
I returned to the kitchen to chop the veggies. I paused my chopping and looked at her, and she was standing there staring at me, as if waiting for this moment to give me her signature smile. That’s one of the things she’s perfected – the art of smiling so big you forget she just scared you half to death.
One minute she’ll be teetering on the edge of the coffee table, and when you run and catch her she lets out the largest squeal of delight. After she’s fallen out of one of the patio chairs and cried her hardest into your arms over hitting her head on the patio, she’s laughing and smiling as if she just took the ride of her life. All is forgotten because she’s there in your arms. And so, I’ve learned a few things on this new ride with my wild child.
You Cannot Control Everything
I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to keep things out of reach, attempting to control her environment, and yet she somehow finds a way to foil my plans. Every. Single. Day. While we do have large pieces of furniture anchored, door knob covers in place, unused outlet plugs covered, hazardous materials locked away, etc. I mean, let’s face it. We can only child proof our house so much. We still live here, after all. And, we do like to drink adult beverages that don’t come in spill-proof cups. We like to watch television – with remote controls. We use floor and table lamps for lighting – that plug into electric outlets. And we have a dining room table for eating, which apparently doubles as a jungle gym if you’re a small, adventurous child.
So, I’ve learned that I have to stop trying to prevent everything from happening, and roll with it when I can. She’s in constant motion, so I keep things handy for easy cleanup. I have also learned how to program (and un-program) our home thermostat thanks to her. Occasionally I delete and cancel random shows off our DVR. We have lots of scotch tape handy for book repairs. There’s always ice in the freezer, and an endless supply of mommy and daddy kisses and hugs for everyday boo boo’s, bumps and scrapes. And we recently added child safety leashes to our diaper bag supplies.
Don’t be Afraid to Try New Things – At a Running Pace
While my first child was (and still is) typically cautious about new experiences, my second is fearless. She wants to experience life in all its glory at a running pace. And that is her typical pace, running. I sometimes wish I could look at life with such bravery and trust. To jump off a table trusting that someone’s going to catch me, or know that if I fall, someone will be there to comfort and hold me.
You know, even if we get hurt, some experiences are worth the risk. Sometimes you have to take the leap without knowing what’s going to happen – to do it for the experience.
Watching my wild child reminds me there will be times we should go with our gut and move forward. And there will be times to heed the advice of those older and wiser than us, and slow it down a bit so we don’t run smack into what’s up ahead.
Play Hard and Love Harder
My favorite sound in this whole wide world are the giggles of my children. I think every parent can attest to that statement. There’s something magical about the unfettered laughter of a child that heals all wounds. For a moment I am transported out of the weightiness of adulthood into the heart of a child, where right now all there is is playtime. The tickle fights and squeals of delight. When she looks up at you to catch your eye, her face lights up with that smile that says, ‘There you are! I see you! I love you’ She has perfected the art of radiating love with one smile which brings me to my last lesson.
A Genuine Smile Can Heal All Hurts
Have you ever felt down and someone smiled at you? Not just smiled with their face, but smiled with their heart? It reaches right down into your own heart and lifts your soul. But so often when we’re hurting, we hold onto those smiles, because our heart doesn’t feel like smiling.
And yet here’s the thing. When I feel the magic in that smile I am reminded that is exactly what I must do even when I feel like shrinking back inside of myself. Instead, I must make my heart smile, because that’s the kind of smile that’s infectious, that heals all hurts. A smile from the heart, like the smile of a child. So don’t hold back. Smile at someone from your heart today, and watch what happens.
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