Our three year old and his best friend are “going through a phase” as toddlers so often are. The phase goes a little something like this:
Stage 1: overtired/hungry toddler wants something his friend has
Stage 2: he goes and takes the precious item (normally a leaf covered in bird poo or a bit of old brick covered in snail slime) directly out of his friend’s hands
Stage 3: friend (understandably) is very annoyed
Stage 4: one or both friends resort to either screaming at or hitting the other to get back/keep hold of said precious item
This is not unusual behaviour for toddlers. As parents our job is to explain why the behaviour wasn’t kind, teach them alternative ways to communicate their needs and encourage them to apologise. This takes time. Many, many attempts will be made to learn this important skill – because we are asking 3 year olds to take responsibility for their behaviour and even adults find that hard.
Our son and his best friend love each other very much. They are as close as brothers which means they fight like brothers. But like brothers they are always quick to forgive and forget. Watching them play and practise these key social skills makes me think about my own responsibilities. Not to other people, objects or situations, but responsibility for myself and my own actions.
I (like many others I am sure) have been known to utter such phrases as, “I had to drink because everyone else was” or “I had to eat 30 Jaffa Cakes because it’s been a stressful day”. Phrases like this remove the responsibility from us and place it on someone or something else. I can blame friends for “making me drink” or stress for meaning I “had to eat rubbish” but this deflection is just done to avoid taking ownership of my behaviour – the only person responsible for me drinking was me. The only person putting Jaffa cake after Jaffa cake into my mouth was me.
A glass of wine and some treats aren’t the end of the world but my attitude towards them is similar to how I’ve looked at exercise before. I can’t because… I won’t because… Always someone else or some extenuating circumstance to blame for the lack of exercise in my world.
But when I stopped making excuses – 63 days ago – and took responsibility for making exercise part of my life, my whole outlook on it changed. I am the only one who can make me exercise. I am the one who is responsible for looking after my body. I am responsible for my own health. That’s the simple truth of it. This morning I set the alarm for 5:45am. I got up, put my trainers on and stood next to the back door looking at the cold, dark morning. No one else would be to blame if I didn’t run. I could say it was because it was cold or dark or early but that wouldn’t stop it from being my choice not to go out and get going.
So I took responsibility for my fitness goals and I ran.
And the sunrise when I’d finished was most definitely worth it: