My Toddler Needs Me

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The other day I realized my toddler needs me. This may seem obvious, but I don’t mean she needs me in the sense of needing someone to make her food, change her diaper, or provide her with clothing and shelter. But I mean she really needs me.

I came to this realization when I was reflecting on a few particularly stressful days.

Lately I will be right in the middle of something when my little one would come underfoot, reach up to me and say, “Mama, need you.”

Not, ‘I want you,’ ‘Pick me up,’ or ‘Hold me,’ but my toddler would say she needed me.

Regularly, as an adult, I have to remind myself the difference between a want and a need. Is it possible, in her young innocence my daughter already understands this?

toddlerI hate to admit that many times I don’t respond instantly to my daughter’s need when she speaks it.

I’m sure other moms can relate when I say it always seems the timing isn’t great. Right in the middle of making dinner, going to the bathroom, or doing some other “necessary” task, is when we are needed. Oftentimes find myself saying “Not right now,” or “Mama is busy.” And maybe that works for other moms but not for me. The response from my daughter is usually tears. The response from me is usually frustration and impatience.

But I recently wondered to myself, what if I look at this request truly as a need rather than a want?

My Toddler Needs Me

Sure, it’s important to teach our little ones how to wait for something, not to interrupt, and be patient. But we also know little kids have big emotions. What if we stop and meet their needs in the moment?

When my daughter looks up to me and says, “Mama, need you” maybe she’s really saying ‘I am feeling overwhelmed,’ ‘I had a bad day,’ or ‘I’m anxious or unsure.’

In responding instantly to that true need, I want my daughter to know she is seen. She is important, and she is loved and safe with me.

When I really think about this need my daughter so easily verbalizes, I realize she doesn’t overuse it. Sometimes she approaches me and asks to be picked up or held, she doesn’t always use the term ‘need.’

No doubt my daughter feels the anxiety and fear in the world right now. I believe somewhere in that beautiful brain of hers, she knows what she needs, what is essential for her, and what she wants. And how can I deny that sweet spoken need of hers?

So as I move forward I want to strive to meet this need of my toddler. To remember there may be so much more behind that simple statement. Even in the midst of life’s busyness if my daughter is verbalizing she has a need, I will do what I can to meet it. Some days that will mean dropping everything and picking her up in my arms, other times I’ll have to sit her on the counter with me as I multitask with a million other things. But whatever it may look like it’s important to me that she knows she is heard and that ‘Mama’ will always respond.

What have you learned from a toddler? 

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Casey is an Iowa captive by way of Alabama. She lives in Urbandale with her first responder husband Derek, black lab Dakota, and human daughters Avery (2018) and Nellie (2021). She loves being a mom and is navigating her journey with her own version of what motherhood looks like including shamelessly singing “Baby Shark” on command and eating Oreos during nap time so she doesn’t have to share. Casey works part time in the non-profit field supporting families that are grieving the loss of a child. In her “free time” Casey enjoys baking, specializing in boxed brownies and pre-made cookie dough. She also enjoys reading historical fiction books and watching Netflix. Her preferred forms of communication include sarcasm, emojis and gifs.

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