The lesson my toddler taught me

I tiptoed down the stairs. Literally. Teju is asleep in her room and I just kissed TJ a Good Nap quietly closing his door behind me. Yet, I fear the slightest sound might wake one or both of them up. I can’t have that. I need this time to recharge. It has been a tough hour and a half.


It only took 1.5 hours. It only took 1.5 hours to learn an important lesson…from the time we left TJ’s school for home until I put him down for a nap.


Teju and I picked TJ up from school as usual and as usual, he was very happy to see us. He ran to us and eagerly walked out saying good-bye to his teacher. We had only walked about 10 feet when he started talking about a classmate who had brought Thomas (the Train Engine) to school but with whom he couldn’t play because a teacher said he couldn’t and that maybe he could play with it next time.


After listening to what he said, I casually responded by saying, “It’s okay, honey.”


He knows his routine upon returning home. Use the toilet and wash his hands with soap before getting ready for lunch. Today, since we were a little ahead of schedule and lunch was already prepared, I was in no rush. I reminded him to go to the washroom and wash his hands. He refused. Instead, he had started to play with his trains as soon as we had gotten home.


After a few minutes, I hear an exasperated, “NO!” and then see, first, one engine, then another “no” followed by a freight car, next, a couple of tracks, then one more track start to fly off his train table. I didn’t say a word. I picked Teju up and strapped her to her high chair. Just then, a flying track hit me on the side of my head, hurting me. I didn’t say anything. However, I wasn’t going to risk a track or train hitting Teju.


I quietly went up to where he was standing next to his train table and took everything off that table and placed them on the floor so he couldn’t throw them around anymore. To think, Aaron had even taken pictures of this track because he had built such a good one this time!


This set him off. He started crying announcing amidst sobs that he was very upset. Meanwhile I had already placed the kids’ lunches on the table. I told him to come sit down for lunch and he did but there was no eating happening. Teju, who had eaten a few spoonfuls had suddenly decided to get difficult and was turning her face away from food.


So I had one kid to my right, sobbing, and another one to my left who had started to join in. TJ looked at me and with sad eyes full of tears said he wanted to hug me. I helped him over to my chair and into my lap and we hugged. Deeply. I loved holding on to him even as he covered my sweater with snot and tears. I didn’t care.


After a couple minutes, I told him to get back into his chair, which he did, and start eating, which he didn’t. He started crying again. Teju started crying. Battling an aching body, a slight headache, a runny nose, and watery eyes – symptoms I have been carrying around for a few days having gotten them from TJ and Aaron, both just recovering from their own colds, I was in no mood to fight, argue, yell or even deal with anything just then.


I needed to physically remove myself from the scene so I went into the living room and sat on the Laz-E-Boy. Seeing a container of almonds left on the side table from the night before, I helped myself to a few. I had only been able to bite into one when soft footsteps accompanied by quiet sobs entered into my space.


“I want to be near you,” he said.


“Not now.” I said, immediately regretting my words. I picked him up and sat him next to me.


(Teju who could hear but not see us had stopped crying but was slowly making crying-like sounds wondering what we were up to).


“What’s the matter with you today, honey? Is everything alright with you?” I asked.


No response.


“You are getting upset a lot, hon…what’s the matter? Did you have a bad day at school?”


“Yea,” he quietly said.


“What happened?”


“..didn’t…play with Thomas…”


My heart ached for him. He loves Thomas, the Tank Engine and his many “friends”. Percy, Thomas’s best friend, used to be TJ’s favorite but in the last few days he has really started to love Thomas a lot!


The important lesson he taught me today:


Toddlers have bad days too. They just don't know how to handle them. Just like many adults. #toddlerlife #momlife Click To Tweet


Turned out another kid in his class had brought along a Thomas toy and one of his teachers said that maybe he could play with it “next time”. Exactly what he had told me right after school, something in auto-mom mode, I had listened (actively) but given a standard “it’s okay” response without acknowledging how that must have made him feel.


He consoled himself saying that maybe he would play with Thomas next time. I further told him that he would have appreciated the teacher doing the same thing for him had he brought one of his favorite toys along. What if he had taken Blue Mater (or Mumbai Mater as we call him because I bought it for him in Mumbai) or Mack the Truck with him and his teacher would have given it to some other kid to play with, he wouldn’t have liked that much, would he have now? He understood.


My darling little child. He is growing up. He is learning new things. He is learning to handle emotions. He is learning what it means to not always get his way. The lessons he learns now, little ones and big, are hard. I am not sure I am clever enough to teach him how to deal with these obviously-huge-to-him setbacks. I only hope I can be there to hold him, hug him, console him, and make the hurt feel a little less hurtful.


Some other posts about Toddler Emotions

The day my kids and I cried together

I became THAT mom today

Will I ever learn…

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A former Communication Studies professor turned a somewhat reluctant stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I blog about my adventures raising two multiracial kids. I write about parenting and living a multicultural Indian-Canadian-American HinJew life with honesty, a few tears, lots of laughter, and gallons of coffee.
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  1. Love this. My 5-yr-old has been getting upset a lot too, and I’m so quick to roll my eyes at her dramatics (which seem ridiculous so often). I should realize that she’s contending with an ever-growing baby-turning toddler taking up lots of mommy’s time and space and preschool ending FOREVER. Thanks for allowing me some perspective via your son’s challenging day :). Very well-written.

    1. What a kind comment. Thank you so much.
      It is so easy to forget, isn’t it? I try to be more conscious (and am not always successful) of how his day is going and its consequences on the bigger “tantrums” but it is definitely a deliberate effort.

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