There’s Just Something About Him and Open Spaces :: Letting My Toddler Run


Kid Playing With Toy Truck In The SandI often joke about my son being wild. From the time he started rolling over, I knew his childhood was going to be a non-stop ride. He has never stopped moving and always has to be exploring. He is so curious, never shying away from crawling through dirt to load more pebbles into his dump truck or wading through a puddle to poke a worm.

A Toddler in the Wide Open

A few months after my son turned two, though he’d been mobile for well over a year, he suddenly found his land legs — if you will — while we were at Oakmont Park with some friends.

I was busy rocking my daughter in her carrier when she started fussing, so I took my eyes off my son to adjust her legs. When I looked back up, mere seconds later, he was nowhere to be found. I frantically scanned, certain that he was behind the slide or under the stairs.

Then I heard someone call out, “Quick! Catch him!”

I swerved to see my son, sprinting with the form of Usain Bolt through the open field without a care in the world, his curls bobbing with his bouncing toddler gait. I could hear his high-pitched giggles as he tasted the sweet freedom of running with nobody to stop him . . . yet.

Thankfully, a friend assessed my inability to run and swiftly jogged after him, lest everyone be subjected to my attempt at catching a toddler (boy, they are FAST) while trying not to wake a sleeping baby strapped to my chest.

A Habit of Running

More recently, I was at an outdoor play group. Once again, my daughter was snoring lightly on my chest when I happened to look up — it must’ve been my mama gut — to find my son noodling his little body through the loosely padlocked gate and booking it towards the busy four-way intersection like a moth to a streetlight.

Now that we’re on the other side of this story and my son wasn’t hurt, I can say it was quite the comical sight as my due-any-day-now friend hastily tried to squeeze through the same gate in a rush to grab him. Then, as we realized there was no way either of us were going to fit, we spent a horrifying amount of time fumbling with the padlock, while screaming at my son to freeze — to which he paid no attention, of course. Thankfully, an angel/stranger pulled a contortionist move and managed to grab my son before he could dart into traffic.

I was lamenting over this latest situation with a friend on the phone (we both have active toddler boys) and she said to me, “There’s just something about him and open spaces that’s special. You’re going to look back one day when he’s grown and realize . . . that’s why he did what he’s doing now.”

My Own Unique Gift

In a Science Daily article, lead author Christopher Nave emphasizes the importance of understanding personality in relation to behavior because it follows us across time and contexts. 

Woman Standing By WindowAt a very young age, I learned never to cry because it was seen as a sign of weakness. I was very in tune with how I felt and how others felt, and I would often push back when I thought either was unfairly treated. I was mocked for being emotional, punished for “rebelling,” and, for years, I thought being sensitive was a bad thing and hated myself for caring too much.

It took years of good counsel to unravel these lies I’d learned to believe about myself and to recognize that what I once considered an affliction is, in fact, a unique gift.

Encouraging His Wild Side

Now, my son is most likely not going to grow up to be an Olympic runner. Given his parental genes, it’s more likely he’ll be gifted in something that doesn’t require athleticism. But as his mother, I know this much: I hope I’ll never quash his wild side.

When he rolls in the dirt to build his new construction site in the backyard, I hope I’ll look beyond the extra laundry and wonder at his imagination. When he sprints excitedly into his sister’s room to wake her up with a boisterous song, I hope I’ll look beyond selfishly wishing for a nap extension and cherish his abundant love for his sister. When he has to stop the stroller to watch a cricket cross the road or a plane fly overhead, I hope I’ll look beyond my impatience to get to our destination or at his interruption and admire his exuberance for the little things.

It is my role to steward his character well and — while I’m still working on the whole running-after-a-toddler-with-a-baby-strapped-to-my-chest-and teaching-him-to-stop-when-I-say-so thing — I hope he never loses his curiosity for open spaces and adventure.

Also, you can bet I’ll be on the hunt for thoroughly fenced-in parks.


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