the beauty of a toddler

It is easy to wax eloquent about babies. Their smooth, soft skin. Tiny toes. Perfect small ears. Quiet coos and contented sighs. The instinctive curl of their limbs when they snuggle up warm on your chest.

It’s a little more challenging to romanticize toddlerhood. The soft baby skin becomes bruised and scraped from the latest dive into the coffee table. The limbs that once curled into the nestle of your arms now flail and kick, resisting every snuggle in order to run free. Happy coos morph into screaming tantrums.

S is a new toddler. Walking and words have opened up the world for him. He explores, he tests, he tries everything. His emotions emerge stronger each day: desires and frustrations, wants and wonders.

As I pack away the stuff of his babyhood – bottles and bibs, onesies and old toys – I become nostalgic. One more tub of outgrown clothes for the basement, one more step towards childhood. I love to watch him grow, but at times I mourn the quick passage of time.

So today I challenge myself to celebrate the beauty in his toddlerhood, an underappreciated subject.

There is beauty in his wonder at exploring the world: the sudden way his eyes seize upon a new object, then quickly lunge to grab, shake, throw, mouth and test to discover what delights it may hold.

There is beauty in his sense of humor: the cheeky shake of his curls in a grinning “no”, the chubby hands that slap his face to cover his eyes in “peek-a-boo”, the breathy belly chuckle that erupts when we tickle him.

There is beauty in the growing smoothness of his movements: the sure stride of his steps when there was once hesitant toddling, the careful filling and dumping of his box of blocks where there was once wild throwing, the proud autonomy of independent eating where he once sat helpless as a wide-mouthed baby bird.

There is beauty in the in-betweenness: the “now baby”, “now boy” glimpses I catch in the changing moods and faces of his day, a shifting kaleidoscope.

Beauty reveals to us the glory of God breaking through in creation. I see the beauty of God’s delight and wonder, God’s love and laughter, breaking through in the toddlerhood of one squirmy, babbling, growing S.

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