Toddler time is time of discovery

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

For the past couple of weeks, I have had the privilege of doing some babysitting for two of my grandchildren. King, in Franklin, is 3 and a half. Gardner, in Seattle, is almost 2. As all my grandmother friends will attest, babysitting for toddlers is stepping back into that world of discovery and toddler attitude.

It is no wonder that sociologist compare the toddler years and the teenage years. Everything is new and different for the little ones, and it is an age of discovery. Apron strings are beginning to stretch, as long as Mama and Dada are still close enough to run to for refuge.

For me, the toddler years are the beginning of the golden age of grandparenting. I learn to love babies again whenever we have a new one in the family, but loving toddlers is my natural state-of-mind. I’m not sure when this golden age ends, because my oldest grandson is almost 13, and I’m still loving every day I get to spend with him, too.

I do feel some added pressure during these toddler years. The first and foremost is keeping them safe, something some of my other grandmother friends also express as their greatest fear. “I forgot what it was like to need three hands,” one friend lamented after a busy afternoon with her two toddler boys.  “And they are so fast,” another friend added.

The second, more cerebral pressure comes because I believe you begin to define your grandmother role during these toddler years. Am I going to be a fun Gigi or a nervous one?  Will the announcement that Gigi is coming to visit bring cheers or tears because it might mean Mommy and Daddy are going out? Is a day with Gigi exciting or boring?

The great thing about toddlers is that it doesn’t take much to please them. It takes endless patience, but it isn’t expensive or exhausting to throw the ball back to them 100 times, read the same book six times or allow yourself – the bad guy who scared Peppa Pig – to be locked up in the jail.

Both boys are fascinated by everything, and that is a world I have missed. A bug on the sidewalk, a You-Tube video of freight trains getting loaded with cargo, a rock that is too big to move and doubtless has wonderful treasures under it – all these ordinary things bring that spark to their eyes that is thrilling and inspiring.

Watching them learn and venture out is a joy. Gardner is fascinated with buckles and will buckle the fasteners on his high chair repeatedly. He can’t quite unbuckle them, however, so every time the buckle clicks closed, the request for “help” comes, and Gigi has to unbuckle it. Every time it snaps apart, he claps.

King is pushing his own limits of independence. I got a video from his mom of this tiny little guy climbing to the top of a waterslide at a neighborhood gathering. He refused all help, although climbing is not really his thing. He told his mom he could do it by himself because he “was brave like a lion.”

And he did it.

Another fascinating thing for grandparents is seeing your own children in the actions and attitudes of their toddlers. You don’t forget the time your life was filled with a toddler ready to challenge everything and say “NO,” no matter the question.

I guess I could call it “payback,” as I watch my grandsons get that all-too-familiar look on their faces – the same one their fathers got when trouble was brewing in those cute little heads.

But this time, I’m the fun Gigi. I can just smile and be ready with a hug when time-out and the tears are over.


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