Looking back on this summer, one of the highlights for me was being an auntie. My brother and his family live far away, so I usually only get to see my nieces in-person a couple times a year. Other than that, it’s Skype or FaceTime.
This month, we got to spend two whole weeks together, and this time taught me about listening. Trying to figure out what a toddler is saying is pretty difficult when you’re not versed in tot-talk with all of it’s special words, grammar, and enunciations. With the baby, it can be even harder to figure out what she wants or what’s making her upset.
Our last day with the girls, I had the honor of taking Kirsten to go potty and help her with all the going potty entails. It was a novel experience for this new auntie. I tried to find the button and zipper on her shorts, but for you parents I’m sure you’re happy that kids’ clothes are easy-on easy-off with their elastic bands. I was told by my modest niece to turn around and not look, so I stood facing the gray door and waited. Kirsten was taking her time, sang a song, and as I turned to check on her I was reprimanded–she wasn’t done yet. We had a nice respite in that stall.
You may not appreciate this analogy (though I’m sure you saw it coming), but just like little Kirsten has been learning to use the potty and go “number two” (something we don’t give much thought to post-potty training), we all have different things that we need to learn and relearn.
Even as adults skilled at using the potty, little Kirsten may know something better than us: hunger, fullness, what and when she wants to eat, when she needs a nap, when it’s time for fun and games.
So how do we learn (or relearn) these things that come natural to a baby or a toddler? I think it comes down to taking the time to listen. We don’t have to rush through our meals (or our lives for that matter) in a mindless blaze. Learning to honor our bodies by honoring the process of our nourishment means setting aside time to be quiet, peaceful, and figure out how our body communicates with us.
As you’re eating, your inquiry may take the form of:
Before the meal even starts, it is helpful to ask what outcome you want from this food–how you want to feel when you’re done. If you decide beforehand that you want to be satisfied but not full or beyond, then when you get to “satisfied” you have a decision to make. Do you stop now in alignment with your goal or do you keep eating for whatever reason (hunger, emotion, entitlement, special occasion, etc.)
Through it all, be curious. Have patience and compassion with the little one inside you who is learning to listen.
I know I can learn a lot from a potty rendezvous. What about you?