Janelle Peregoy learned a lesson from her exuberant toddler about God's love and the love we are called to share.
Daniel, my baby-turned toddler, is a destructive force these days. At 18 months, he is a study in superlatives – seeking the tallest slides, biggest toys and making the loudest sounds. Lately, I have taken to thinking of him as Mr. All-In. Like many new toddlers, he leaves a trail behind him of broken toys, open cupboards, and an absurd amount of cracker crumbs.
He is also a very affectionate little guy. When I pick him up, he nestles his head into my neck and his entire body relaxes into my arms. In the morning when he first awakes, he begs to go see Daddy during the entire time I am changing his diaper. When I finally put him down on the ground, little squeals of excitement reverberate down the hallway as he barrels toward our bedroom in pure anticipation of being reunited with my husband.
A couple weeks ago, I went to drop off Daniel at daycare. Usually drop-offs are fairly easy for us: Daniel scans the room for a favorite toy and proceeds to lunge for it. On this particular day, it wasn’t a toy that caught his attention. Daniel made a beeline for his little friend, Colette. Before any of the adults could react, Daniel threw his whole body towards her, accidentally knocking her onto the carpeted floor in the process. There was a collective gasp as we watched the bigger Daniel topple on top of Colette’s smaller frame. By the time we arrived over there, Daniel and Colette were lying on the floor, still clutched into each other’s arms, giggling hysterically. They had never broken their hug-tackle. A chorus of “awwwwws” erupted from the staff and nearby parents.
As I walked back to my car, I had a jolt of realization. Daniel’s spontaneous, all-in reaction to his friend reflects God's love for each of us. God’s love for us is big, bold and all-encompassing. While processing this awareness, I found myself praying in the car.
“God, please let me love more like Daniel. Let the love You have unabashedly shown me reverberate outward to others.”
How exactly does one love more like Daniel?
- Tell others that you love them often without guile or hesitation. Many adults hesitate to say “I love you” to their friends. Why?!?! If there is one truth we should have all learned this year, it is that our circumstances can change very quickly and we may not know the next time we will lay eyes on our loved ones.
- Understand the power of gestures. I don’t suggest that each of us tackle the objects of our affection. However, I do hope that we find creative ways to remind others that they are on our minds and our hearts. Some suggestions may include sending spontaneous care packages, offering Mass intentions or writing a series of texts explaining what you value about that person. Subtlety is overrated.
- Acknowledge your own self-editing and actively question it. Many of us hesitate to fully express ourselves and be vulnerable to those we love. We usually rationalize this by thinking that we are protecting ourselves. In reality, we are limiting ourselves from full flourishing within those relationships. Building trust requires just that…the challenging work of building trust.
Daniel’s personality will certainly change and evolve. He may not always err on the side of going big or going home. Yet, I will remain grateful for this particular stage of his tender life, where my son demonstrated a glimpse of God’s unabashed love.
Copyright 2020 Janelle Peregoy
Image: Pixabay (2015)
About the Author
Janelle Peregoy, M.Div, is an Associate Director in the Office of Family Life & Spirituality at the Diocese of San Diego. So yes, she has found one of the few positions where it is professionally acceptable to contemplate the spirituality of potty training. A Pope Francis bobble-head sits on her desk for inspiration. See more from Janelle on her blog, Faithfully Irreverent.