My toddler loves me. He loves me and his Dad so much that many of the hours he is awake are spent all up in our grill, yo.
Our little guy is the third and final toddler we will raise. I am reminded of the sometimes overwhelming nature of raising kids this age. Toddlers love you. Like, really, really, really love you. And, having buried a four year old daughter, I am a bit ashamed to say this, but, sometimes, that love can feel a wee bit, a tiny bit, perhaps just a smidge oppressive.
It’s just as horrible to type that sentence as it is to think that sentence. What kind of a monster feels oppressed by their kid’s love? Me, it turns out.
In those moments when I am standing in the kitchen, cooking or doing dishes, and, out of nowhere, my three year old tackles me with a bear hug from behind, or, nuzzles his face into my rump — a unique sign of affection we termed “Kitchen Hug!” when we experienced it with our first so many years ago, or snakes his hand into my nether regions, giggling all the while with the joy of being so close, I fight the instinct to jump and instead, breathe, reminding myself of the intense and innocent love behind those hugs.
The love of a toddler is like the chaste version of those intoxicating first days of amorous love — it is overwhelming and all consuming and so very sincere. A toddler’s love is so pure that it can create sunshine on a stormy day, cast the city slush out of week old snow, and turn politicians into puppies. Well, maybe not all politicians, but many of them.
Some days, I simply don’t feel worthy of being loved to that degree.
Ultimately, I think that is why the love of a toddler can feel so overwhelming. Are any of us worthy of that pure, intense, innocent love? I mean, the other day I had to sit my little guy down to have a discussion about his behavior and how he needed to reign it in at certain times. His response? Tears. My clear statement that he was not meeting expectations was enough to make him cry. Like all toddlers, he just wants to please, to be loved, to make his parents proud and happy. And there I was telling him he wasn’t doing it right. See? I told you I was a monster.
My takeaway from all of this is to just try and appreciate the transitory nature of my toddler’s love. Love evolves, you see. Today my boy can’t get enough of me, wants to smother me with his sticky fingers and face most days, I am the epicenter of his little universe. In a few years, after I have blinked just a few times, he will no longer want to hold my hand or so gleefully accept my hugs and kisses.
When that happens, there I will be, crying in my soda, pining for the days when my toddler was all up in my business.