My 2-Year-Old Has More Self-Control Than I Do

Patience rewarded

It’s been so cold lately that all there really is left to do is bake. Today we made blueberry muffins and little A. “helped,” which is sort of code for him standing at the counter with an apron on while I try to keep him from dumping an entire box of baking soda into the mixing bowl.

When the muffins came out of the oven and had cooled a bit, A. carried a couple to the table. I told him I was going to go make some tea and that I’d get him a glass of milk while I was at it. While I headed into the kitchen to put the water on, clean a few dishes, and eat an entire bag of potato chips, my 2-year-old sat at the table, staring at his blueberry muffin. It occurred to me, as I stood shaking chip crumbs into my mouth while my son carefully touched the muffin wrapper with one finger, not even daring to peel it back, that I needed to work on patience.

2-year-olds get some pretty bad press, and ours has earned his stripes in the predictable categories of tantrums and whining sessions, but in that half-sweet, half-humiliating moment where I realized my self-control had been trumped by a toddler’s, I started thinking about some of the other things my son does better than I do. Here are just a few:

1. Spontaneity. Hey. I feel like eating one of those soft pretzels from the bakery. Let’s go down and get one! Now I want to kick a soccer ball. That’s good too. Hey mom, can we sing “Jimmy Crack Corn” for 20 minutes straight? Of course. Because really…why not?

2. Enjoying work. Washing dishes and vacuuming: mundane tasks, or hobbies? Hobbies, definitely hobbies. Soapy water on the floor and socks caught in the vacuum suction are small prices to pay.

3. Finding fun. My kid is so imaginative. For up to an hour at a time he’ll stand at the windowsill with a couple of lego cars and some dolls, creating elaborate skateboarding, ice skating, and diving board scenarios. He’ll crawl in and out of a cardboard box  or sit at the bottom of my closet rearranging my shoe pile. Sometimes I think it’s funny how many toys are marketed to toddlers when it doesn’t actually appear they need many.

4. Skateboarding. People raise their eyebrows when they see him toting his skateboard around, but seriously, this kid is talented.

I love that boy!


35 thoughts on “My 2-Year-Old Has More Self-Control Than I Do

    1. I don’t know how or why exactly we lose that keen child’s sense of how the world should work. The best we can do is observe them and hope to get some of it back! Thanks for your comment.

  1. Sarah, I immediately put this wonderfully joyful, playful, and soul-satisfying post on my Facebook timeline to share with family and friends. This is absolutely inspiring in the way it places the proper perpective on what truly makes up a happy day in the life!

  2. What a great post! Your little one shows some impressive self-control indeed…I’m sure my two would have done no such thing, but maybe they learned that from me! I love the one about enjoying work – once my daughter was incredulous when a friend said that she didn’t like to vacuum. Because, you see, in our house the Vacuum Monster chases children around and tries to eat their clothes…it’s one of their favorite activities!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kelly. My little guy is not always the most patient, but he is still pretty earnest at this age and I’m impressed at what he can wait for. I LOVE your vacuum monster game– I have never thought of that. I’ll have to try it out next time I vacuum (which will definitely be soon– we have a German Shepherd who sheds everywhere).

  3. Love this story! It brings me back to when my kids were that little (they’re 8 and 10 now.) They took me so literally, they would both have sat and stared at the muffin until I gave them further instructions too!

  4. When people asked Jesus who ranked highest in the heavens, this was His answer…
    “Then he said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom. ” Matthew 18:3-4

    Little angels like your sweet A, seem to be closer to heaven than most. What a gift to have his perspective in your life, his light that illuminates the good things life’s business blinds us from.

    Love this post – makes me want to just go hang out with my little angels:)

    1. Great verse Tristen, and thanks for the sentiment as well. Children do seem to have one foot in this world, one in the other. It reminds me of that Wordsworth poem, “Intimations of Immortality,” where he says: “Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

  5. Yes, yes, yes! I love this! I think we get so caught up in the stresses sometimes, the challenges of raising children and our anxiety about how to do everything best, we forget to notice their talents and the little things they cant teach us — soapsuds and socks notwithstanding. 🙂

    Loved this!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Emily! I loved your typo too. 🙂 It’s true that anxiety is often behind most of the stress we feel raising children, and it’s hard to let go of that. But for the sake of our songs and our shoes, we must try!

  6. Yes! Oh, to look at our kids with appreciation instead of frustration. It doesn’t happen enough, and there’s so MUCH to appreciate!

    Here’s to singing Jimmy Crack Corn while rearranging shoe piles. It WOULD be fun, if we would let it be!

    1. Thank you Sarah! You put it so well…appreciation instead of frustration. If I step outside the frustrations for just a moment, I see only cumulative beauty. Life is certainly full of both. And yes, Jimmy Crack Corn and shoe piles go together quite well. Homemade play doh is also a welcome addition.

  7. Hi Sarah,
    It’s amazing how kids are teachers to us big kids. We can learn so much from them by just observing. It seems the older we get the less flexible we become. To become child like really helps to open my creativity.

  8. Sometimes, you can learn so much from a toddler; it’s amazing what type of imaginations they have. If only adults could take the time, and have the kind of imagination that a toddler has, then maybe this world wouldn’t be as up tight and serious. If we could just let go and forget about all of lifes problems, and just let out and have some fun! I knew that your little boy was going to be a smart one..

  9. Hi, I found your page through a post at Write it Sideways. Good article and very humbling. I agree with your response, I have often looked to kids and their imaginations for inspiration. (I mentioned that in a post not long ago titled, 2 Key to Unlimited Ideas).

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