Life Lessons from a Two Year Old
I had the amazing blessing of visiting a friend of mine in Germany over the Christmas holiday. She found me a great airfare and I had just enough use-'em-or-lose-'em vacation days left at work to eke out a trip.
I have to admit, I've often envied my friend Christa, who's married to a great Christian man, Mark, has a darling baby, Lydia, lives in a quaint village in Germany (Mark's stationed at the nearby Air Force base), and has a thriving ministry with Bible Study Fellowship. But she's such a dear sister-friend, it's hard to harbor any ill feelings over her life of love, purpose, and adventure for very long. And besides, here was my chance to step into this happy life for a couple weeks.
We spent four days in England navigating cobblestone streets on foot and winding back roads — on the "wrong" side of the road — in our rental car, enjoyed the Christmas markets in the walk- platz sections of small German villages, and I tried desperately to remember my high school French classes when we lunched in a quaint cafe just over the border in France. Despite all this newness, hands-down the most cross-cultural experience of my trip was Lydia, Christa's two-year-old daughter.
As we packed to fly to England, I quickly realized it took all three of us adults to carry all that was required to maintain the existence of this cute little person for four days. And when our budget airline flight was delayed three hours, it took all three of us again to entertain her little attention span — even with an indoor play area and great views of planes landing and depart- ing.
Once there, we had to work around nap schedules (hers, not mine!) and could only enter shops accessible to strollers and not filled with breakables in the two feet and under range. I also soon learned that cobblestone streets, though easy on the eyes, are not so easy for stroller wheels.
I found myself spelling things like j-u-i-c-e and b-a-b-y, not wanting to incite World War Three if I mentioned them in Lydia's earshot and they didn't happen to be on hand. I began to refer to animals not by name, but by the sounds they make — "Hey Lydia, look at the ruff-ruff!" And, inevitably, I discussed poop with Christa and Mark — how often, how much, and, of course, usually at mealtimes.
The climax came the day we were eating dinner at a great little Italian restaurant. Lydia was crabby and constipated and making more noise than the twelve 10-year-old girls celebrating a birthday at the table next to ours. Christa, Mark, and I wanted to apologize to the whole restaurant for all the whining — Lydia's and ours! I looked at a nearby table of women laughing and eating together (and no doubt, not discussing poop!) and suddenly longed for all those Girls' Nights Out that had started to seem a repetitive second to much-longed-for dates. Funny how our perspective can change so quickly.
And mine changed constantly throughout the trip. There were moments when Lydia's belly laughs were the sweetest sounds I think I've ever heard. She was my backseat traveling companion and constantly pointed out the simple pleasures in life to me — "'tar!" (translation: star) and "dirt!" — with innocent glee. One of the best gifts I received this holiday was the reminder to stop and appreciate the simple joys of life.
I was excited to experience Christmas with this cute little person — and she didn't disappoint. When Lydia unwrapped a new doll, she said "Hi, baby" with the voice of an angel and cradled this new friend gently in her arms. She buzzed happily while Mommy helped her put on her new rain boots that look like bees. She then marched laps around the dining room table and finally announced she was ready to go to church — in the stunning ensemble of her bee boots and mint green flannel one-piece pajamas!
I even grew to be fond of her nickname for me: "Dat." I understand that my three-syllable name is quite the verbal feat for a two year old, but at first I was offended that I was given the same word used to reference inanimate objects. But when we would pray before mealtimes and little Lydia would add items to the list of things to pray for, such as Mommy, Daddy, baby, and blankie, she would get a sheepish look on her face, point in my direction, and add "Dat." Folding my hands and bowing my head with this dear family, my heart would swell with love for this sweet little poopy girl.
Though I must admit when the trip was over and I was finally deposited at my apartment by a friend of mine, I used my last bits of vacation adrenaline to venture out to Blockbuster, a local take-out restaurant, and the nearest coffee shop, where I gathered the ingredients for a blissfully quiet and much-needed Me Night. Sprawled on the living room floor eating a "poop"-free meal and enjoying a Teletubbies-less video, I savored some of the freedoms I'd missed during my brief stint with a life station I've often envied — young familyhood. With a fresh appreciation of my single status, I settled in to enjoy some of my simple pleasures in life — a good meal, a funny movie, great coffee — a skill I learned from my new little friend on the other side of the ocean: Lydia.