Note the title of this post. It includes the expression cherished toddlers. Many toddlers are not treated well at all. Not at all. Egregiously, in fact. But loved and cherished toddlers often receive nurturing routine, wonderful play, acknowledgement of limits, and plenty of other things from the adults who love them.
I am working on a month-long self-care regime. My beautiful and brilliant sweetie frequently talks about how self-care routines often work best when we treat ourselves like cherished toddlers. The more of this conscious self-care stuff I have been doing, the more I think she’s right. So I offer the following list as an invitation to gentleness, diligence, wisdom, and compassion.
- Regular Sleep
This admonition goes first because there is nothing that precipitates a meltdown like bad sleep, amIright? Going to sleep about the same time each night and waking up about the same time each morning is recognized in healing tradition after tradition as something deeply beneficial to memory, mood, and physical well-being.
Furthermore, the exercise of regular sleep, sometimes even including (gasp!) naps, is part of routine. And routine, though many of us (especially those of us who identify as creative, intense, or freaky) balk at it, is really good for us, just as it is for toddlers. It’s hard sometimes—don’t I know it!—but it has great effects.
Regular sleep has been the linchpin of my entire self-care enterprise. It refreshes me, helps me find new ideas, and supports my creative life.
- Regular Food (most especially when hungry!)
Nothing worse than being HANGRY! It feels terrible to the person with the hangries and it certainly feels terrible to everyone around them. Hungry toddlers are hell on wheels, and so are most adults. Why? Because we need to eat, people! (Not “we need to eat people”!)
Another piece here that goes with sleep, as well, is catching the hangries before it gets that far. For example, with infants, you can tell a baby is getting hungry long before they start crying their lungs out. With toddlers, when you see the crazies start to come on, it’s almost certainly past time for a little protein-rich snack or meal.
- Avoiding Overstimulation
This one is especially important if you know, as I know about myself—and I am a big extrovert!—that you’re sensitive to noise, crowds, bright lights, etc. We may be easily overstimulated, and we don’t always give credence for our need, much less the need for the toddlers in our care, to avoid the Chuck E Noisies of the world.
Nor do we give ourselves permission not to go to that loud, crowded place when we’re feeling overwhelmed already. Nor do we allow ourselves to acknowledge our own sensitivities.
It’s okay to be sensitive. Really. It is.
- Recovery Time
Sometimes, though, life is just a lot. A lot. So let’s not pile on, shall we?
Sometimes we just need downtime. Recovery time. Just like toddlers sometimes need some quiet snuggle or time to play alone. Sometimes adults need these too. And speaking of play…
Yes! Let’s hear it for Legos, dolls/action figures (can someone please tell me the difference, really?), cross stitch, iPad time, painting, coloring.
Let’s hear it for jungle gyms, rock climbing, hiking, for all kinds of joyful movement… Let’s hear it for play! We all need it, and too many of us don’t allow ourselves to have it. Play exercises our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
When we play, we give ourselves compassion and sweetness. We give ourselves smiles, focus, and love. Play is just a plain Good Thing.
- Clear Boundaries (most especially My Body Is My Own)
This is a big one.
Clear boundaries help us take care of ourselves and others. Sometimes it is at least as helpful to others as it is to us when we set a clear boundary. Compassion doesn’t mean having no boundaries.
And as I say above, My Body Is My Own. And other people’s bodies are their own!! From the time we are little kids, we can learn these lessons. Children of any gender need these lessons, and adults need them too.
- Important Work
This one may seem strange to some in a list about what we have to learn from cherished toddlers. I am thinking of Montessori here. Of the tasks that Montessori students have, how they are understood to be important, not only for themselves, but for the group.
We need “right livelihood,” as well, to use the Buddhist phrase. We can all use work that we know matters, that engages us, and that gives us a sense of fulfillment.
That’s my list. That’s my list for now of things I’m learning from my self-care practice, and from my sweetie, who is very wise. I hope it is helpful to you, whether you know any toddlers or not.