Understanding Needs: Toddler Talk

While sitting at my computer, I can anticipate Clarabelle needing to use “Gigi’s bathroom” at least 3 times per hour so that she may enter the room and say “sooooo, what’s up?” I smile and ask what’s up with her and she toddles off to the bathroom only to repeat the conversation as she finishes and exits the room. It’s a thing we do.

So, anyway, today she enters, does her little exchange, and goes into the bathroom. I hear “Gigi, I need you.”

I jump up from my computer and open the bathroom door. She seems just fine. She is adjusting her pants as she pulls them up and so I asked, “what do you need?”

“You,” she responded.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Nothing,” she smiled, hugged me, and said, “sooooo, what’s up?” She then toddled off to the living room.

I stood there for a minute and reflected on this odd exchange. She did not need me to do anything. She just needed me. What an amazing concept!

 

During the year that the children were in foster care, I remember going to eat at Cracker Barrell with my son, Zach, one Sunday afternoon. Across the room from us, I looked up and saw them! My heart dropped. I wanted so badly to go to them but I was afraid. I didn’t know the rules about these things. I did not know how the foster parents would act. I did not know if it would cause a scene. The ache of being so close and yet unable to reach them was unbearable! It was like drowning just below the surface of the water where you can see the way out but you are held down so as to not be able to gasp in the air that is just above you.

 

Before we left, I took a deep breath and approached the table. I spoke cordially to the foster parents and their family and then turned my attention to the children. I was happy to see them. I wanted to stay in that moment. But I knew I had to be brief. As I leaned down to tell them by, Clarabelle stated, in the same matter of fact tone that she had in the bathroom today, “But, Gigi, I need you and Elliott needs you, too.” I held back the tears. I wanted to meet that need. I wanted to be with them every moment of every day to help teach them and guide them through life. I wanted to tell her that I was trying so hard to bring them home. I wanted to take them from their high chairs and run as far away from the nightmare that we were living as possible. But, instead, I looked in her sweet face and said, “I know, baby, Gigi needs you and your brother, too. But I have to go now so I can keep working to bring you home.”

After a few more times of her stating that she needed me, I turned and the tears fell.

It was a terrible feeling to know that I could not give her what she needed. But, in the same breath, it was a beautiful thing to know that she did then and still now knows that our needs are essential to our wellbeing and those needs include being with one another.

A child does not need a fancy home or an abundance of “things.” They need love, time, and attention.

May we always Meet the Needs of Children

“Gigi”

Understanding ‘Hangry’: Toddler Talk

 

Okay, so it has been a while since I have shared one of my deep conversations with the little princess, Clarabelle, but this one was too good not to share today. After we took her brother, Elliott, to get his first haircut, we decided that we would head to Olive Garden for a bite to eat. We pulled into the parking lot and Clarabelle immediately begins to shout because this place has both stickers and salad! I mean, this is damn near as good as it gets!

Anyway, we get to our seat, the rounded booth in the corner, and Clarabelle slides in the middle to begin to strategically place her stickers while we order our drinks and begin to look at the menus. As soon as the menus open, as most toddlers, there was an immediate need for a potty run. Of course, the restrooms are on the opposite side of the restaurant so I prepare for a mad dash.

However, Clarabelle is not in a hurry at all. She looks and smiles at each table that we pass. She takes just a second to observe each guest with their plates. Finally, after she has collected enough data, she looks up at me and says, “everyone is eating. They are mad.”

I kinda chuckled and said, “people do like food, don’t they?”

Clarabelle, not shaken by my jovial response continued to elaborate. “I get mad when I am hungry. I get a little grumpy while we are waiting for our food.”

Now, I am sure that she has heard one of us say this at some point, but it kinda took me by surprise that she was able to recognize the difference between the expressions of those who were eating and those who were still waiting. I realized that we often forget our own expressions and may appear to be grumpy or mad when really we are just focused on being hungry.

Then, I considered the difference between being hungry and wanting food. After all, we were not standing in line waiting on rations. We were not hoping that we would get fed. It had not even been that long since the last snack time of the day. We were not hungry, but we were ready to eat.

How often do we get angry because our wants are not met as quickly as we would like? How often do we confuse our wants with needs? Obviously, we must eat, but are we so incapable of waiting, are our wants really that urgent, that we cannot manage a smile while we wait? Can we really not tell the difference?

My first job was as a server at a Pizza Inn in Pigeon Forge, TN when I was 14 years old. My parents had divorced and I spent the summers with my mother. I remember the rapid pace of the buffet-style restaurant and thinking that all of these vacationers did not seem to be very relaxed. Most of my job experience until I finished my degree consisted of restaurant work from serving to managing. People always seemed happier at the end of the meal than when they arrived and I always believed that I had something to do with their improved mood. However, when looking at it now, the fulfillment of a want is only a temporary improvement and, as long as we are unable to differentiate between wants and needs, we will never have anything more permanent.

We all get ‘hangry.’ We all want something immediately and, at times, we even have immediate needs. But, for the most part, we are just in such a hurry that we stay mad more often than happy. We complain more than we are satisfied. We want more than we need.

 

To want is not to need,

“Gigi”