Have you ever watched toddlers as they begin begin to discover their world? Watched them as they pick up a leaf that had fallen from a tree and then look up towards the sky in wonder? Moments like these revive our senses to the boundless beauty that exists in our everyday lives. Thank heaven for little children!
Eloise is now one year and three months old, an age that is filled with discovery. Recently I had been asked to watch Eloise while her mother and father shared “special time” with her older sister, May. Like most toddlers, Eloise was not one to sit idle and required a mega dose of stimulation to appease her budding curiosity. The morning threatened rain so we played lots of toddler games in the house
Playing with a toddler takes an exhaustive amount of energy. With a limited attention span and equally limited fine and gross motor coordination, planning activities for a toddler becomes a hit or miss situation, which is exactly what happened during Eloise and my rainy Sunday morning together. However, after many misses, I discovered much about my youngest granddaughter and what brings her enjoyment.
In life, there are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, but there is also the additional classification that toddlers fall into; the category of “all-else-avores.” This latest category is most troublesome for grown-ups, especially for this grammy. It is the category that requires constant vigilance, a discerning eye and anticipatory behavior. As I sat on the floor playing with Eloise, my eyes constantly scanned the room for areas that might lure her into potentially hazardous situations, because sure enough, if there is the tiniest particle of paper, bit of metal or piece of plastic to be found, it will find its way into Eloise’s mouth. Discovery through taste seems to dominate a toddler’s world. Especially a toddler like Eloise, a real chow-puss.
As I sat on the floor placing all kinds of “educational” toys in front of Eloise, the Sesame Street Busy Box, the chime ball that plays music when rolled across the floor, the toy cell phone, and the many “Lift and Look” books for toddlers, I discovered that her favorite thing to do was make noise. It made sense to me. Everyone under the age of responsibility likes noise. So we banged the plastic ball on the floor and tapped the coffee table with our hands and moved our bodies to the rhythms we created
With her limited attention span waning, it was time to switch activities and get our muscles moving. At my age, my muscles are inclined to rebel against sudden movements, but when it comes to my granddaughter, they can groan all they like. I am not about to let age stand in the way of doing things that will bring enjoyment to both her and me. So, we played “run and hide,” a simple game where I ran around the house hiding behind nooks and crannies and saying “Boo” as Eloise approached. Eloise in turn would run away and I would chase after her, grab her into my arms and swing her around. It was a game that she loved and one that I was able to modify so that she could take a lead.
Eloise never tired of this little activity, but I found that my breath was getting shorter and my muscles were beginning to ache under the stress of running and lifting. If I was to survive the remaining hour or so before the return of her parents, I had better come up with a less strenuous activity. I decided, drizzle or no, I would take Eloise for a walk in her stroller.
Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year. The colorful leaves that twirl through the air, propelled by autumn breezes, serve to reawaken my love of nature after the heat-filled, sluggish days of summer. We are all products of our environment and, as I step into leaf-filled yards and streets, I am constantly reminded of my father’s tremendous influence upon developing my love of nature.
As I walked Eloise around her neighborhood, I paused occasionally to pick up a leaf and put it into her little hand (again, keeping a watchful eye over her propensity to put things into her mouth). We stopped to watch a squirrel scurrying over branches of trees, and looked at the many fall decorations that adorned the various yards we passed. I pointed out the tiny asters and ferns that bordered the streets, in the event that she just might be capable of retaining some understanding of nature’s magnificence.
It began to drizzle a bit harder so we headed for home. When it was time to take Eloise out of her stroller, she began to yell. My husband thought her crying was due to her feet getting caught as we tried to lift her, but we quickly realized that Eloise, regardless of the changing weather, wanted to remain out-of-doors. So, I held her tiny hand in mine and we walked down the street.
It was at this point of our morning together that my emotions reached an all time high. Letting go of my hand, Eloise toddled about and I watched. I watched as she kicked the autumn leaves with her little feet over and again, discovering their rustling sounds. I watched as she plopped herself down on her neighbor’s lawn and gently touched the seeds that crowned the stem of a dandelion, taking each seed off, one by one, and watching it fly away into the wind. I watched as she looked towards the sky and laughed as leaves fell from trees swaying in the mild autumn breeze. And as I watched, I wondered, “What must she be thinking? What is it like to see the world with fresh, unbiased eyes?”
As Eloise sat, discovering her world, Jeremy, Nancy and May pulled up in their car and called out to her. Our morning had come to an end and Eloise was happily off to greet her family. As she toddled off to the arms of her sister and parents, I watched as a moment of quiet reflection became transformed into one of frenetic energy. Eloise was with her mom, dad, and sister, and all was right with her world.