Things I’ve Learned From My Toddler

Marlowe is 2.5 years old. He has blonde hair and huge blue eyes and he’s the best person in the world.

I’m lucky enough to be his dad, which means I get to spend quite a bit of time with him. It’s educational. Not just because I’m always learning how to be a better father (mainly through trial and error) but because seeing how he interacts with the world and how he responds to situations is a constant education.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Sometimes something bad happens. Marlowe will screw his little face up and bawl. Maybe he’s fallen over and scuffed his knee. Maybe I’ve refused to give him his third bowl of chocolate buttons. Either way, as soon as something interesting happens (cartoons come on the TV, a new toy is produced from somewhere) his tears dry up almost immediately and we’re back to being a happy little boy. He doesn’t hold grudges.

It’s OK to get upset

I think part of the problem with being an adult is always keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity. I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to bottle up our emotional responses to things. Marlowe will vent loudly — screaming with excitement and running around the house, or screaming with despair as his train bounces away from him down the stairs. It’s OK to react to things in an emotional way — within reason.

Take pleasure in the simple things

I once entertained Marlowe for a whole day with just two toilet roll tubes taped together (“binoculars”). Another day he was so enamoured with a stick he found in the garden that he insisted on sleeping with it. He doesn’t require constant and extreme stimulation to stop him chewing the furniture. He squeezes the maximum amount of enjoyment from what’s in front of him at any particular time.

Stop and smell the roses

On some days, he just doesn’t want to go out and have adventures. He’ll happily cuddle up on the sofa with me and we’ll watch Cars or Monsters Inc for the 108th time, and he’s not gnawed at by the persistent suspicion he should be doing something ‘more productive’ or that he’s ‘wasting time’. How can time be wasted if you’re happy?

Nature is great

One of my favourite activities with the boy is to go for a walk in a forest, or a nature reserve. He gets to scamper around and collect interesting leaves and I get a break away from computer screens and RSI. I never really appreciated it as much as I do now, and of course when you’re two years old everything is cool, spiders are funny and should definitely crawl on your face, and you can never get too close to a pond.

Live for today

When you’re a toddler, life is a simple adventure, dealt with day to day. Marlowe doesn’t really concern himself with anything beyond tomorrow. He has no reason to — his mum and I have everything planned out for him, we’re basically his PA. This means he can concentrate on building a huge tower, or setting up his railway, or digging up molehills. Marlowe doesn’t have a ‘to-do list’ or goals, which sounds to me like an enviable position. As far as I can tell, he’s always in the moment.

Before you have your first child you make a mental note of all the life lessons you’re going to pass on, all the experience that your child can benefit from, to give them an advantage in life. But when you see them living their own way, and really think about it — they’re doing a lot of things a lot better than you already.

And they can’t even use a toilet.


  • Steve Kind September 30, 2013

    Alex – that is an awesome, to the point and factual piece that nevertheless gives me a warm glow. I rate being a father as the most rewarding experience of my life – and it only gets better as time passes. The only thing I’d add to your comments is *conversation* – talk to your children all the time – about everything- and they will be OK. And it’s OK to talk bollocks, as long as you don’t talk bullshit 😀

  • Andy Payne September 30, 2013

    Very enjoyable read and agree entirely. I just love how accepting they are at this age. They have none of the bias and prejudice we all inadvertently adopt as we grow old. Much of the frustration of being a parent is trying to teach them to ‘conform’ with the world e.g. what to eat, when to sleep, how to be polite etc. As responsible parents we’ve got to do it, of course, but there’s something very refreshing about the child’s innocent will and constant desire for fun.

  • margaret king October 1, 2013

    I have always thought I was a lousy parent – impatient and always under pressure. However if by my efforts or by default the end result is the father who wrote the piece above I am delighted. I also have the joy of spending quality time with not one but two toddler grandsons and I too learn from both of them


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