“What to Expect the Second Year” excerpt #2

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I hope you all saw the great giveaway I am hosting of a “What to Expect the Second Year” gift basket. The book is in stores April 5th. I also posted an excerpt called “Your Toddler, Decoded”. And today is an excerpt from the book called, “We Could Learn a Thing or Two from a 1-Year-Old” I hope it gets you even more excited for this book. Tomorrow will be my last post with a Q/A from the author.

“We Could Learn a Thing or Two from a 1-Year-Old”
From “What to Expect the Second Year”
By Heidi Murkoff

Toddlers have a lot to learn (how to share, how to wait their turn, how to use a fork instead of fingers. . .to name a few). But believe it or not, we could all learn a thing or two from a 1-year- old.

Live life to the max. Experience what I like to call “joie de toddler” (if only it could be bottled so we could all tap into it, or at least splash a little behind our ears). Joie de toddler is unabashed, unapologetic. Uncensored, definitely unscripted. It sparkles, it shines, it knows no bounds (literally–since limits are one of the things that toddlers have to work on!). And it’s living large–especially for one so small.

Stop and smell the flowers …or watch an ant crossing …or listen to a bird singing or a plane flying by … or follow a butterfly. Don’t take the world around you for granted–see it like you’re seeing it for the first time, through a toddler’s eyes. Put your senses on full throttle.

March to your own drummer. Somewhere along the line, usually the school lunch line, most of us decide that it is more expedient to blend in with the crowd than to stand out in it. But because toddlers are so me-occupied, so self-centric, they’re completely authentic, true only to themselves. I am what I am, and that’s all that I am. And who among us couldn’t learn a thing or two about being true to ourselves?

Persevere. If at first you don’t succeed at reaching the remote, try, try again. Taken a tumble? Get up. Toddlers meet challenges head on–and often, head over heels. The takeaway for you: Have a set back? Don’t let it set you back.

Lose your inhibitions. Can’t dance? Can’t hold a tune? Have no rhythm? No problem if you’re a toddler, who delights in doing what comes naturally–even if it doesn’t exactly come naturally. So go ahead–take those two left feet out to a tango class. Sing loud and proud in the shower. Join your toddler in a finger-painting fest–even if you’re less Great Master, more Master of the Stick Figure.

Be curious. Inquiring toddler minds want to know–what’s behind that cabinet door, or under that rock? What happens when I turn my cup of juice upside down? Why does wet sand stick to my fingers, but dry sand doesn’t? I wonder if Daddy’s wallet will float in the toilet? Okay, don’t try that at home. But try to remember what it’s like to wonder.

Learn how to love learning–again. We grown-ups know a lot, that’s true. But it’s also true that sometimes, the more you know, the less you learn. That’s why toddlers–who know so relatively little, learn so much so fast. What’s more, they crave learning– they yearn to learn. Question what you think you know–and you might just learn to love learning all over again.

Use your imagination. We adults tend to be realists–that’s what real life (say, paying bills) will do to a person. But toddlers haven’t had their reality checked yet–to a 1-year-old, anything is possible, even if it isn’t probable (that is, when you’re 2 ½ feet tall and have a 7:30 bedtime). It’s imagination that allows a little one to think big–to turn the sofa cushions into a teddy bear triage, or fill an empty pot with magic soup, or don daddy’s shoes and mommy’s briefcase for a day at “work.” Couldn’t we all dream a little bigger?

Eat because you’re hungry. It’s a pretty basic concept most adults–and even older children–have lost track of: Eat when you’re hungry, stop eating when you’re full– repeat when you’re hungry again. Healthy toddlers, at least toddlers who aren’t pushed to eat (or to stop eating), or encouraged to eat for the wrong reasons (for comfort, to relieve boredom), instinctually eat to appetite–and whether parents believe it or not, usually eat exactly what they need to thrive and grow. Instead of taking a page from your dust-collecting diet books, take one from your hopefully still-self-regulating toddler.

Hang up your hang-ups. So you haven’t quite lost your baby fat. Maybe your thighs jiggle and your arms wiggle. But have you ever met a 1-year-old with body image hang-ups? Nope–they can’t get out of their clothes fast enough (especially if there’s company over). Have you ever seen a toddler suck in her cheeks or hold in his tummy? Nope–they let it all hang out. And you may have heard: A healthier body image leads to a healthier relationship with food.

Love thyself. Yes, most toddlers have a lot to learn about loving their neighbors in the sandbox or at a playgroup. But loving themselves–that, they’ve got down. And believe it or not, a little one’s outsized ego isn’t just age-appropriate, it’s an accessory that’s necessary in the development of empathy: Toddlers have to learn to care about themselves before they can care about others. Application for you: Me matters, too. Have you hugged yourself today?

Take risks. Okay, chances are your toddler takes more risks than you’d like–trying to climb over the crib railing comes to mind. But the truth is that just about all of life’s important accomplishments, including those really early ones, involve risk–without risking a fall, you don’t learn how to walk …or run … or climb. Sensible risk prevention makes sense at any age (which is what childproofing is all about). But take away all the risk, and you’ve taken away the potential to progress. Protect your little one (or yourself) from all risk, and you prevent those next steps.

Live in the moment. For a toddler, there’s no time like the present … in fact, there’s no time but the present. Without a concept of “next week” or “tomorrow” or even “later,” a 1-year old only knows “now” (which explains why juice must be poured into my cup “now,” why daddy must put down his iPad and read me a story “now,” why I want to get out of the stroller “now”). Yes, patience is a virtue (one your toddler will learn … later), but so is living in the present tense …. and really being “present.”

Put down your foot (and sometimes stomp it a little). I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with the word “no”–that is, with saying “no” and meaning “no.” No to a favor, no to a Monday deadline that means working all weekend, no to over-scheduling that leads to under-relaxing. Toddlers, you might have noticed, have, well, no such problem with “no.” They mean “no” when they say “no”–and sometimes they even say “no” when they mean “yes” (just for the power it wields, which, when you’re always being told what to do and when it do it, can be pretty heady stuff). The positive of sometimes being negative? Say “no” to that project you don’t have time to take on, and you’ll see how standing up for yourself (literally) can depend on occasionally putting your foot down.

Appreciate the simple things in life. Yes, they’re a lot more complex than they’re usually given credit for, but toddlers also like to keep it simple–and not just in their food choices (pasta, no sauce; bread, no crust need apply). Ever watch a toddler snub the expensive toy, and dive into the box it came in (turning it into a garage for toy cars or a house for dolls)? Nobody’s suggesting you take to playing with boxes (though, let’s face it–that’s a rainy day puppet theater waiting to happen)–but there is real pleasure in keeping it simple.

Wear your emotions on your sleeve (and some jelly, too). There’s never any guesswork when it comes to toddler emotions. If a toddler’s happy, you’ll know it by that ear-to-ear grin and those gleeful giggles. Mad, you’ll know it by that adorable pout, those folded arms, those stomping feet. Excited, their whole little body will be buzzing. Tentative, he’ll be taking cover behind your legs. While you’ll want to watch when and where you wear your emotions (adults are best advised to skip public tantrums), don’t always feel like feelings must be bottled up, either. If you’re happy and you know it, smile and laugh–a lot. If you’re sad, have a good cry–or a good vent with a good friend. Feeling unsure? Do what a toddler would do–hold on to something familiar while you venture out of your comfort zone.

Don’t just sit there—move something. Never sit when you can stand, stand when you can walk, walk when you can run, climb, shake, rock, roll … that’s a toddler credo that should gain some cred in the grown-up world. There’s a reason why toddlers don’t need a gym membership–they’re always on the move.

Know when to ask for help. Toddlers may not be happy about their limitations–or even accept them very readily (enter, fits of frustrations when those blocks won’t stay stacked, that toy can’t be reached, that doll’s clothes come off–but won’t go back on). While there are plenty of times when little ones will want to do something “myself!”—they never think twice about asking for a bigger, more dexterous helping hand, a leg up, a shoulder to cry on. But when was the last time you asked for help you needed?

Embrace the routine. Breakfast Cheerios in the bunny bowl, the same three books read in the same order every night, the favorite sippy cup and a beloved blanket always at the ready–1-year olds gain comfort from knowing that the more things change in their ever-expanding worlds, the more they can also stay the same. That’s normal, it’s developmentally appropriate–and it’s something we can all learn a little something from. Family routines aren’t just comforting for toddlers, they make life easier on everyone–and also, often, more fun, giving you something to fall back on, something to look forward to (Saturday’s pancake day, Tuesday’s silly spaghetti night, every day starts –and ends–with a special cuddle).

Get silly. Yes, you’re the responsible adult–but that doesn’t always mean you have to act like one. So once in a while, channel your inner toddler–have more fun, just for fun’s sake. Shed the day’s stress, power off your Blackberry, put thoughts of undone laundry and unreturned e-mails on hold–and get a good giggle going. Don’t you feel better already?

Disclaimer- This post was not monetarily compensated. I want to share this book with you as I feel this is an important book for all families.
The above excerpt was provided by and used with permission by Workman Publishing