On Being Flexible

I've heard toddlerhood compared to teenagehood before (by Maria Montessori, even!) and I think that there is a lot of truth to that comparison. Toddlerhood is a strange beast - little people are ecstatic to be alive one second and howling in tears the next. An activity that was the bee's knees yesterday is taboo today. (An activity like, say, potty training...ahem. Not that that observation is based on a true story, or anything.) And yet there is something very beautiful about toddlerhood. It really is a time for growth in holiness for both parent and child.

For the child, her task at this stage in life is learning self-control. As even St. Augustine so aptly observed in The Confessions, toddlers are proof positive that original sin is real (note, Augustine was a father - when I read this passage before becoming a parent I didn't get it...but now I do!). Toddlers struggle to control their very out-of-control wills. They struggle to come when you call them, to do what you tell them, and sometimes to not do what they so desperately want to do. I'm writing this as a mother of a toddler who is relatively obedient but who is not at all immune to the effects of original sin. Sister Stinky, in her own little way, is beginning to grow in holiness. She is beginning to learn that she can trust her Mommy and Daddy to make good decisions, and she is beginning to learn that she doesn't need to freak out over every little thing that goes wrong. In learning these valuable lessons, she is laying the foundation for controlling her will in instances that really matter once she has reached the age of reason.

But, let's be honest, her sins are nonexistent and mine most certainly are...well...existent. I find they are truly lain bare as a parent. I can see the ways that I fail her and when I am in a foul mood it spills over into her foul mood. And often, my frustration over a situation leads to a stalemate of sorts. What is more helpful is being gently, lovingly, patient with Sister Stinky.

This is especially evident in our time together in Tot School. I am trying to remind myself not to let my Tot School experience color my opinion of real homeschooling too much because...well...toddlers are a whole different creature entirely. Case in point - Sister Stinky and shaving cream. The interwebs wax poetic about the wonders of toddlers and shaving cream and all that fantastic sensory experiential hoo-hah. Normally, Sister Stinky loves sensory play as much as the next tot, but when it comes to shaving cream....I think she may have actually been afraid of shaving cream! She did end up touching it a bit, but no amount of forcing would have led her to do that. Rather, gentle encouragement and patience won the day.

So, even more so than for her - her toddlerhood is a time for me to grow in holiness. It is a time for me to learn to be flexible; to put aside my own ideas about things sometimes, and to be open to the ways in which God is calling me to mother this little girl. It is a time of putting aside my agenda and being open to God's will for her life - in shaving cream and in other things.

And, just as it is for her, this time is a time of practicing for even bigger things. If I can learn to be flexible now, to venture down a different path with her when necessary, it will serve me better when it really matters - like when she discerns her vocation. Or when she discerns what college or major she is called to. These little steps matter - they help me to be a holier mother who is willing to listen to God's call in my daughter's life, especially when the direction He is calling her is different than what I may have had in mind.

I have a looooong way to go, but thankfully, so does she. I'm happy to be journeying beside her.

(This is the face of constant motion, folks. No caffeine necessary!)


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