Sadie is my 16-month-old granddaughter. She is adorable. She is wickedly funny, cheeky as, incredibly assertive and the second coming of her mother.
I am in awe of this toddler. Despite her limited vocabulary, we have no issues communicating. She is very clear.
She smiles, kicks her feet or claps her hands when she is happy. She laughs loudly when she gets the joke. However, she will not smile when she is not happy or if she is in a bad mood.
Sadie is very clear when she has had enough of being at our house or the playground. She literally grabs her parent and starts heading for the door.
When she wants something she asks for it – she doesn’t always get what she wants but she is more likely to get it from Grandmama than anyone else.
She likes to do her own thing but she will regularly come up for a quick hug or cuddle and then get back to exploring her environment again.
When she is tired she gets quite grumpy and we all know that she needs a nap. And if she hurts herself we give her a cuddle, soothe her until she feeling better and then we send her back to take more risks.
Sadie hasn’t learned how to manipulate people by being pleasing or cruel. She doesn’t pretend because she doesn’t know how to. And we are not offended when she clearly decides that she has had enough of us or she doesn’t accept something that we have offered her.
Sadie is uncomplicated and a joy to spend time with.
What I continually teach people in my work is that people are just toddlers in grown-up bodies. We all have needs and wants. There will be times when we are not feeling happy and we don’t feel like smiling and sometimes we just want to go home or do something just for us.
But over the years we have learned to pretend to be happy to keep the peace; we have learned that if we are pleasing or agressive we will be more likely to get our own way. As adults, we become increasingly complicated and our communication is not always clear. We stop being able to ask for what we want; we doubt ourselves. Many of us become significantly less assertive. We worry more about what others think about us; than what we want and need so that we can look after ourselves.
And when we see an adult in pain, particularly when it comes to mental health issues, we often say “get over yourself” or “pick yourself up” because we don’t know how to respond. So we don’t always provide a safe caring space for that person to feel their pain and build their resilience.
Sadie is fast approaching the age where she will start testing the boundaries; where she will become frustrated when her parents say ‘no’; when her body won’t do what she wants it to do and when she can’t explain herself.
But I truly hope and pray that she will continue to only smile when she is happy; that she will continue to ask for what she needs no matter what is going on in her life and that she will be assertive (like her mother).
Header image by Jackie Wood Photography.