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Challenge: Unlikely Friends

The Only Toddler at the Party: Thank You, Momma Who Saw Me

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Entering the party, I knew the chances were high that I’d be the only one with an infant attached and a toddler in tow. (A toddler who believes he’s just as big as the older kids but needs much more guidance and attention.) I could quickly identify the ease on the other faces- moms talking without interruption as their children played and navigated the party independently. The parents- they were eating off of their own plates. They were walking between the outside and inside freely. They had two free hands.

Although our children are younger, we wanted to celebrate the birthday of our family friend. My toddler adores older friends and was excited to be there. However, he needed constant reminders to stay away from the road when a bubble would quickly blow in that direction. He needed a watchful eye as he walked by other people’s plates, trying to quickly take any sweets he could get into his little dirty hands. He wasn’t quite sure how to sit and watch the presents being opened and not have the freedom to play with each one. He had no concept of “eating time” and “not yet eating time.” He required eyes to help him navigate this world that came easily to the older children. He required me.

The infant, well she didn’t have a concept of the time to eat, the time to play and the time to sing. She felt became hungry at the same time I was chasing her brother and she became upset when the rest of the room was quiet and tuned into the birthday girl. She wanted out of her carrier but with no space to let her safely lay without me. She wanted to see the other people but did not want to be touched by them.

Parenting young children is much different from parenting older, this was starkly obvious to me in these moments of internal and external tension. My children, they needed me more. They needed my guidance to explore their independence. They needed my attentiveness to keep them safe, fed, and without a tummy ache from too much chocolate. They needed my conversations to be brief and often interrupted. They needed my body to be more mobile and in sync with their own. They needed me and my energy constantly. They needed my patience to be higher than what is humanly available without some serious intention.

As I immersed myself in these two worlds- the world of both being needed as a mom and interacting with other adults- I noticed the different moms around me. Most seem preoccupied in their world of adulthood and overseer. Some gave me a sly look as my son tried to steal the toppings from their children’s cupcakes. Some looked around for me to make sure I would quickly intervene while my toddler was making his way towards the gift table. Some turned an eye to a baby cry and got a glimpse of one-handed bottle prep. There were two moms, though, who remembered.

Toddler Runs in Puddle

One Day You'll Run in Independence

They remembered the day, just a few years ago, when life was full of one-handed tasks, easing cries, and wrangling toddlers. They remembered the physical journey of being present to dependent children. They remembered the emotional journey of being needed and yet still trying to operate as an adult. They remembered the mental journey of checking off all the boxes for little ones who can’t do it on their own. They remembered the social journey of being desperate for an adult conversation, but knowing it would be interrupted, compromised and joined by a young squeaky voice. I knew they remembered because they stepped in.

On mom assured me that she’d keep an eye on my toddler who was chasing bubbles with laughter and no understanding of yard boundaries. The other offered to hold and feed and stuck with me in a conversation through the interruptions and my inability to make eye contact as I watched my little ones. Both of these moms stepped into spaces that showed support, understanding, and encouragement. They made me feel seen, valued and appreciated in a season that can often feel long and lonely. Though they had the freedom to sit back and relax as their own older kids needed much less guidance, they chose to step in and be present for a mom whose season is much different.

One day my children will run with their own independence. They will go to parties and not need my oversight. They will fix their own food, converse with their own friends and keep their hand out of the icing. They will understand the boundaries and danger of chasing bubbles into the street. In those moments, I could relax, for I will still be catching up from the years of infancy and toddlerhood, but I don’t want to relax. May I be a mom who remembers. A mom who remembers the days that felt so long and the parties that felt isolating. May I be a mom who remembers the needs of a young baby and the attitude of a budding toddler. May I be a mom who remembers that new moms need to feel a part of the big picture too, even when they can’t stand in one place for more than a minute. May I be a mom who remembers, steps in and shows up- no matter how old my own children get to be.

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