Adults can Learn from Toddlers

Last week, a team from our church worked with a mission agency to provide children’s ministry for 140 TCKs (Third Culture Kids aka Missionary Kids) during their annual conference in SE Asia. These global workers came from very difficult places like Cambodia, Laos, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia and all converged in a ‘safe’ city for a week-long retreat. We had the privilege of caring for these brave and resilient saints, by providing activities for their kids while they attended workshops, held team meetings, visited with the primary care physicians, met with marriage and family therapists and enjoyed an evening out with their spouse for a much needed date night.

I joined the team to ‘play’ with the toddlers, 24 of them in all. By the end of the week, I was exhausted and numb from trying to think of ways to creatively entertain the kids. I was also out of clean shirts (they all seemed to have some sort of bodily fluid stain). Yet, my perspective on life was surprisingly clear. As leaders, we are taught how to evaluate things from the 30,000 foot perspective. Maybe sometimes, we need to set our sights a little lower. Here are some of my observations from spending a week on the carpet at the 3 foot level:

Adults Can Learn from Toddlers

There is a job for everyone and each person has a purpose in life: Some build things out of blocks, cups, and whatever else is available. Others knock it down.

Some are criers- There are really only three reasons to cry:
1. I am missing something – sleep, attention, someone I love very much
2. I am uncomfortable – scary people, it’s too hot, too cold, I’m gassy, I’ve got a poopy diaper
When something stinks, I refuse to be consoled. Period.
3. I am empty – food, drink, meaning, purpose…

Some people are always smiling (except when they’re crying)

Some are sleepers – Life is happening all around, but they refuse to join in.

Some are in perpetual motion – They like to run in circles to stay awake when they get sleepy. They also run in circles to ignore what they really should be doing.

Some are very transparent. You can see a devious thought in the glance of an eye, in a sly smile, and the wrinkle of the nose. They are quietly thinking, scheming, and plotting.

There is the Bully, and then there is the Victim
So, what happens when an irresistible redhead meets and immovable bully?

I don’t like shoes!
That’s my horsey.
My thumb tastes better than your thumb.
Play-dough tastes better after a few days.

Mommy don’t go.
Where’s my mommy?
I don’t want to go yet mommy.
Hey Steve-o!!!

Some days are good days, and others are not so good, and that’s okay.
On the good days, playing the zone is a good option.
On the not so good days, we switch to a one-on-one defense.

There are some people we refuse to like. It would be easier if they were not around. But, God keeps them near us, and somehow we are better together.

Play-dough can occupy time for hours on end. There is something therapeutic about squeezing it between your fingers. It smells just like I remember and it feels cool and clammy, but nice. What makes it so magnetic? This simple, moldable, transformative blob of dough can attract a crowd, engage the shy, and inspire imagination. A blue molded elephant taps into a long forgotten area of the sub-conscious and offers a brief escape. Do they make play-dough for adults?

I don’t like that book, read it again…

It’s okay to disagree, but we must learn to fight fair.

Adults have watches, but toddlers have time: snack time, nap time, story time, play time, and even time-out.

Emma, these three need the Potty Queen.

If you fall off the horse, you need to get back on. But if you keep falling off the horse, then you need to go and play in the ball pit instead.

This room smells funky,
Let’s spray some lemony fresh scent,
Now it smells like someone pooped a lemon!

Don’t mess with another man’s play-dough.
Jimmy’s got a boogy.
1, 2, 3, Boing!

Hey you two, you need to share.
Okay, but it’s mine.

Don’t just cry, use your words.
I don’t want to.

What’s that?
Where’s my binky?
When do we get a snack?
Where are we going?
There is an answer to every question, but we are not always prepared to hear it.

I don’t want to be here.
Now, I know that you are upset, but your daddy left you here for just a little while, and then he will come back to get you. That’s what he said, and you know your daddy doesn’t lie.

There is really only one word in all the world that makes everything better. Arguments are postponed, grievances are set aside, and rivals are united at the mere mention of this word: BUBBLES!

A word that is easy for the toddler to say, but difficult for the adults to hear: Bye-Bye

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