I had lunch with a friend today. It was splendid, absolutely something I should do more often. My two-year-old finishes his playgroup around lunchtime, so I picked up him before I went to the bagel shop to meet my friend.
He’s a happy, busy little guy, and while we waited for my friend to come, he occupied himself by taking everything out of my purse and then putting it back in. He took off his coat and his Mickey Mouse hat, and then, when my friend pulled up, he decided the hat needed to go back on.
It’s a red hat with a yellow bill. Mickey Mouse’s face is on the front and the iconic black circle ears stick up from the top of the hat. Objectively, it is adorable.
There was a zaidy there who noticed the hat and began a conversation with my little guy. They talked all about Disneyworld, Mickey Mouse, bagels, cookies, soda, who else in our family has a hat (everyone got mentioned by name), you know, all the important things in life and society.
This led to an adult conversation as well, and we talked about how the Federation in Cleveland is unique in its funding of schools (though Baltimore has a great Federation, too, I think). He told me about how Cleveland has the largest number of Jewish children enrolled in Jewish day schools. It was a nice conversation. Toddler as an introduction to social interaction.
Then, in a heartwarming and surprising moment, this man asked if my son had any allergies, and when I responded that he didn’t, he handed my son a bag with a giant smiley face cookie in it.
It was such a wonderful and unexpected moment of kindness.
As if that weren’t enough toddler-sponsored niceness for one day, there was a couple at the next table over, a couple with eastern European accents, and they also engaged my son and me in conversation.
There’s something about small children (assuming they’re not in the middle of a tantrum or random yelling, of course) which brings happiness to people, especially to grandparents (not just grandparents the small child is related to, but random people who happen to be grandparents).
Maybe it’s seeing the innocence and joy that comes with the world of a toddler. The excitement over something as simple as his brothers and sister also having hats. The endless curiosity, the relish that each new discovery brings.
If I hadn’t had my son with me, it still would have been a lovely outing with a friend. But because I brought my little portable joy-maker with me I had a lunch full of connection with other members of the Jewish community, and I felt like I made everyone’s day a little brighter just by going out of the house with my kid.
Typically, toddlers are not easy (though, seriously, what age is easy? Each age and stage has its own unique challenges). They are high-maintenance little people. I spent most of Friday chasing him after his multiple escapes from the house (kid can unlock a deadbolt, time for childproof door handles chez Silver), and often I avoid running errands with him because it’s just faster to do it myself.
But after this delightful outing, maybe I will bring him around a little more, spread the joy while I can. Because yes, it goes so fast, and before I know it he will be bigger, the chubby fingers and baby face will make way for the leaner body of an active boy.