by Jessica Towns
There is no shortage of parenting articles and videos these days on the subject of keeping it real. Moms and dads share, with brutal honesty, how hard it is to be a parent. The culprit tends to be a toddler—arguing with circular logic, rubber stamping the pets, spewing violent tears over something irrational. We praise these parents for refusing to sugar coat their lives, and it’s often hilarious.
But honestly, I’m a little bored of it. It’s starting to bring me down. I could use some positivity—a grateful reminder of why I put up with this parenting gig. The tantrums and crackers smeared into the carpet are only half of the “real” we profess to keep. So let me keep it really real for a minute: there is a lot to love about living with a toddler.
My daughter is two and a half—old enough to speak and move about, but too young to be self-conscious. She has earnest conversations with stuffed animals, dances like a drunk robot, and constructs wonderfully cryptic sentences. “See you after soon!” she yells as she bolts into the next room, running into a wall because she’s so excited about where she’s going. As her mom, I get to join in on the fun. I squirm on the floor like a snail, don full body armor of Elmo stickers, and sing her made-up songs (“everyone has a butt!”) until I’m laughing to the point of tears.
Globs of quickly-drying playdough. Forty thousand crayons. Wooden blocks that somehow do not fit in the box they came in. My living room is brimming with creative materials, which I am invited—sometimes forced—to use. There are so few opportunities in adult life to lose oneself in the pointless task of making something new. It is both delightful and liberating. I make an awesome Mega Block robot, by the way.
One of my all-time favorite quotes from my husband: “Kids are literally the dumbest people in the world.” It’s a statement of fact, not an insult. Our daughter hasn’t been around long enough to know much, and it’s a joy to watch her learn. By paying attention to the seemingly mundane things she’s looking at, I gain a new appreciation for the world I’ve been taking for granted. We mimic the screech of Stellar’s jays, unearth pill bugs, and study the raccoon poop under our fir tree. And raising a kid in the era of the internet means I can look up anything she asks about. Fun fact: giraffe sounds are too low-pitched for humans to hear. This is no help for Old MacDonald, but it’s cool to know.
My daughter mimics everything she sees, like a little peanut butter-covered mirror. If I look closely, I discover things I like about myself, like when she climbs next to me on the couch with a toy cup of coffee and a book. Or how generous she is with kind words about people. And of course I see some not-so-good things, too. One night at the dinner table, as I complained about my postpartum body, my daughter looked up from her SpaghettiOs and announced, “I’m disgusting!” I was heartbroken, but I learned something about myself that I want to change. Self-awareness is a double-edged sword, but it’s always a good thing, and I have my daughter to thank.
Now that infanthood, aka survival mode, is behind me, I’m resurfacing to find myself with drastically shifted priorities. It’s amazing how much I do not care about the snide remarks of strangers or the unjustified honking of a BMW. I’m in too much of a hurry to get home by 7pm so I can read a chapter of Harry Potter and get ferocious bedtime hugs. I’m responsible for teaching a precious child how to be a person in this world. I walk through my days with a new sense of purpose and meaning.
I love my daughter now more than I ever did when she was a baby. She is blossoming into a silly, sweet, unique individual—one I happen to like a lot. I won’t pretend I love every minute of motherhood, but when I slow down, try not to cringe at her handful of slug eggs, and look into the blue eyes of this little human I get to raise, I find joy in abundance. And that’s real.
About the Author
Jessica Towns is a full-time mom and two-time PEPS graduate. She lives in Wedgwood with her husband Will and daughter Ravenna, and spends her limited free time writing and drinking a lot of coffee. Jessica holds a civil engineering degree from Seattle University.