Posted by: zhak39 | April 23, 2008

Toddlers as Teachers

The question came up on my Buddhism network from a practitioner in Germany. What advice would Abbot and Sister give to a mother of two children ages 1 and 3 who has little time to sleep let alone sit for any period of time. Their answers were to smile as much as possible, practicing metta in daily life. I added the folowing:

Dhamma Greetings Mikel and All,

I am way behind on reading or I would have answered this as it is in my area of some expertise. My children are now teenagers but I well remember the days when they were babies. I had three children under the age of four and one cat. This was before I met Bhante and Sister Khema and learned about metta.

Please let your friend know that it is hard to be sleep-deprived and function but her hope is in her toddling teachers. We have a saying here, the Terrible Twos. I soon found two-year-olds to be Terrific! They are delightful and funny and full of curiosity. If your friend can share their laughter and recognize their delight it will be easier to be uplifted.

Sometimes it is hard to see the humor because a mother carries so much responsibility. There is not a moment to herself. I can remember trying to find two minutes to go to the bathroom. When I would be sure everyone was safely occupied I would quietly sneak off to the commode. Within twenty seconds I would hear “where’s momma? where’s momma?” Then three pairs of hands would be reaching under the bathroom door, little fingers wiggling. “I bet she’s in there! Found you!” A lot of times I would be so irritated but I remember one time seeing those little fingers and then a long cat arm reaching under as well. I nearly fell off the commode with laughter! (Sorry for the bathroom humor. Mothers are earthy).

There was a time when my oldest boy Chris had discovered his feet. He was thrilled to be upright and strong enough to move things around and he loved to put things in their proper place. I had decided to stencil roosters around the top edge of the kitchen walls. We did not have a ladder so I moved a chair next to an upright piano. From the top of the piano I could reach the part of the wall I wanted to paint. For some reason Chris chose that moment to cruise into the kitchen. He didn’t see me way up high but he saw a chair out of place. Lickity-split he pushes the chair back to the table and cruises right back out of the room. There I am with a paintbrush and gallon of paint crouched on the top of a piano looking at a rickety floor way, way down. We lived in an old wood house with years of termite damage and I was afraid to jump down because I thought the floor would collapse. “Chris, Chris, come here, Momma needs you!” I called. The kids came tumbling through. “Momma’s hiding!” they said. It took a while before they looked up. I was trying to explain to them that someone needed to push the chair back but they would have nothing of it. Their little bellies were jiggling they were laughing so hard. “Momma’s on the furniture.” And a stern “no climbing!”

Kids give you every reason to laugh all day as soon as you change your perspective and get use to being the object of their jokes. They teach you to laugh at yourself. They re-teach you the joy of discovery. They demonstrate delight over even the smallest thing.

Please let your friend know that I empathize with the difficulty of her path but I also make a sincere wish for her that she finds the deeper meaning as well.

Oh, and drop by and watch her kids so she can take a nap once in awhile.

Maha metta to you.

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