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Challenge: Get Happy!

Cure for the Mundane: Be a Toddler

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One of the most delightful things about being a parent is experiencing life through the wondrous eyes of your new baby. Everyday things which we adults take for granted are suddenly newfound marvels when we look at them the way our amazed little ones do.

My toddler’s enthusiasm about, well, pretty much everything in life has taught me how to enjoy the little things. Watching his little mind think about the yumminesss of ice cream at his first taste, or seeing his eyes widen the first time he saw fireworks…they’re beautiful moments I wish I could remember in my own childhood. I’m sometimes a little jealous of his “newness” which allows him to be in awe of every new experience.

Most adults simply don’t remember back to our firsts of babyhood and have grown so used to life’s everyday miracles that we rarely appreciate them. The reason the image of a euphoric toddler trying pizza for the first time recently went viral is because adults wish we could capture that childlike zest for life. The excitement of “new” and the refreshment of different experiences is truly a fantasy.

So I started thinking, “What if I try some new things to treat my inner toddler?” Would I feel a little less like I’m in an adult rut? Would I spark some childlike enthusiasm to perk up the mundane?

One day while at the mall, my son asked me to go into Au Bon Pain for a cupcake that was beckoning him from the window. It brought him such excitement (as usual) that I agreed. I could go for a cupcake too, after all.

Jack got a vanilla cupcake and I chose chocolate. We found a seat and prepared to chow down. “I’ve never had a cupcake here before,” he excitedly told me before taking a messy bite. It dawned on me that I had never either. While I had certainly eaten many chocolate cupcakes in my nearly 40 years, I had never had an Au Bon Pain cupcake. When I realized that, I felt a little excited.

The frosting was so plentiful and gooey that I reached for a fork and knife. I don’t know why because it’s something I’d never done before. Wait… something I’ve never done before?! How about I eat my first Au Bon Pain cupcake with a knife and fork?! And that’s just what I did. There was something really fun and fancy about eating a cupcake with a fork (and I think there was a Seinfeld episode somewhere in there.) I thought about how I had never tasted a cupcake with a fork and savored each delicious bite. It was fun and felt new, and I told Jack about my new fork idea. My son and I got to enjoy our new cupcake experience together, which made me understand his sweet innocence even better.

I let my cupcake-a-la-fork experience guide me to some other new experiences. Lately I’ve tried to be more aware of potential firsts and even small ways I could experience things differently. I’m not even talking about taking up cross country skiing or traveling to an exotic island for the first time. I’m just suggesting we adults try small things in a new way to treat our inner toddler to that refreshing feeling.

For example:

  • Go to the grocery store and pick a unique vegetable or unusual condiment you’ve never tried and eat it for dinner the way your baby or toddler introduces new foods into his routine. Tell your kid so they’re inspired to try new foods!
  • Watch a classic movie that you’ve heard about a thousand times but you’ve never seen
  • Take a new route to work instead of going the same…way…every…single…day.
  • Cook a new shape of pasta you’ve never tried before instead of that same old shape you buy all the time
  • Shop at a new store location. Like, find a Target 20 minutes away rather than the same one you go to every week. Trust me, they have the same stuff. Just new surroundings.
  • Buy and use a new soap or shampoo. Smelling different than usual will make you feel new!
  • Think about all the foods, drinks, places, things etc that you’ve never experienced and make it a point to enjoy these new things
  • Tell your kids about your firsts so they see you enjoying new things the way they do

Simple things that are new to you can make you feel like a kid again. And while they may never be as exciting as the genuine firsts babies and toddlers enjoy, these experiments can help us relate better to our children. After all, I’m sure I’ll forget exactly when I first ate a cupcake with a knife and fork…but I’ll always remember sharing that sweet moment with my happy little three year old.

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