Want to experience living in the moment? Find a toddler!

Want more exercise? How about practicing getting up and down off the floor over and over and over again? Need a break from social media? You won’t have any trouble giving up screen time! How about experiencing the joy of a longer day that isn’t marked by always thinking “what’s next?”

I’ve enjoyed three glorious weeks with a very companionable 19-month old. He’s a little busy-body, and my days were spent keeping up with him!

I’d love to share more photos of my grandson, but mom and dad are wisely protective of his image, and I respect that.

Circumstances allowed us to be together for a full three weeks, dividing experience between time in his home in Northern California, with a return family trip to Southern California.

We have enjoyed long walks following the active neighborhood squirrels and the birds, played with his dog, Obi, and then our Zena, thrown and chased after balls and spent time at the piano singing “Wheels on the Bus” more times than I can count.

And to my delight, he loves books, so when I couldn’t run alongside any longer, the promise of “story time” always worked to quiet us both down.

We did share one particular outing that I thought would be fun to share with you.

In 1948 Oakland businessman Arthur Navlet took his proposal for a storybook theme park to the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, a civic betterment group, and with citizen participation Children’s Fairyland was built on the shores of Lake Merritt, and has remained a popular city fixture since it opened in 1950. It’s even said that Walt Disney toured at one time while gathering ideas for his future endeavor.

Fairyland achieved non-profit status in 1994 and has been able to maintain modest admission price, even able to waive the cost of admission for some 4,000 low-income children each year.

Because I was following a little guy at every twist and turn, my photos don’t even come close to sharing the scope of this happy place geared to very young children and their families.

There are 10 acres of animals, water play, a little train, sand pits with boats that bobble and rock, multiple climbing structures, and small rides, and the beauty is that unlike most amusement parks, this park is aimed for the youngest crowd. At 19-months old, our little one has amazing freedom to explore and run free!

Most days we didn’t need outings to keep us entertained. At his age, just having his Nan sitting on the floor with him while we played together with toys and chatter, was quite enough.

Thanks to Spotify, I found children’s playlists enjoyable throughout our time together, accessing every version I could find of “The Wheels on the Bus,” his favorite request.

One afternoon as we sat on the floor constructing with his blocks I noticed the playlist had jumped to a nursery rhyme song list. We all know that some of those nursery rhymes are a little sketchy. But I laughed out loud and changed “channels” when I heard these words:

Goosey goosey gander, Whither shall I wander? Upstairs and downstairs and in my lady’s chamber. There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers, so I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs.”


Even put to music these aren’t the best lyrics for children. Who thought they were?

I did look up the history and learned that it’s believed the words refer to priest holes, or hiding places for itinerant Catholic priests during the persecutions under King Henry VIII and later, Oliver Cromwell. Still a very strange song for children.

I enjoyed the aspect of giving my full attention to my precious little one. There were benefits to both of us.

Being truly in the moment makes time slow down. A day doesn’t flit by and allowing him to provide the framework of our activity felt like a gift to his development, and reciprocally a gift to me.

I might need a week or two to rest, but then I’ll be hinting to my son and daughter-in-law asking if they could use a part-time nanny for another week or so?





53 thoughts on “Want to experience living in the moment? Find a toddler!

  1. I love seeing the world from a little ones perspective. We sometimes forget how fascinating things are that “we” don’t see anymore. Yes it can wear you out but the joy is overwhelming! Thanks for sharing your adventure!

    1. Thanks for really understanding the preciousness of this time, Bishop. I know that I need to get this time in with my grandchildren NOW, and memories are going to be important. Every time an airplane went overhead was a reason to celebrate. it is something we lose eventually, and it’s indeed fun to think about every little thing being new and exciting. Thank you, my friend.

    1. Thank you, Ronnie. He lives 5.5 hours from door to door and I don’t see him as often as my other grandchildren who live in Southern California, but it’s wonderful that we have the technology of FaceTime and really, I feel very fortunate that they live even that close! Every minute I have with him is about making memories. He has two full sets of grandparents who adore him. Lucky little guy! 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to see you here, Frank! You’ve been missed, and I look forward to hearing about where you’ve been on your break. I do need the rest this week. Somewhere there are still bills to be paid and the rigors of daily life, but it was extraordinary to have this much time with our little guy. That’s rare, and we took full advantage. Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂

  2. I loved this read! Thank you Debra…my days are filled with an active, chatty two year old, but as a mom, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the everyday routine and lose some of the wonder and joy a toddler can bring into your day. My parents are in town and watching them interact with my son and vice versa has been so enlightening. Grandparents really are a truly special gift! He’s loving every moment of it! I hope you get time with your grandson again soon!

    1. I’m so glad your parents are visiting, Stacey. I am sure they can’t believe how much Josiah has grown since their last visit! He’s at such a wonderful age and stage. I think grandparents really do reap the benefits of having the joy of being with their little one without all the responsibility that goes into being a parent. You as mom can’t possibly set aside all day every day just to be a playmate! LOL! I hope you’re taking lots of photos with your parents and Josiah. Those will mean a lot to him one day. 🙂

  3. Sounds fun, and he will keep no doubt you young and on your toes for a few years! Reminds me of when my niece was little – she loved that song too, and loved travelling on the bus from town to my Mum’s house. 🙂

    1. There’s something funny about this young age child and the delight they find in repeating actions, or songs, over and over (and over!) again! After the last three weeks of high energy activity, I can attest to the benefits of my yoga practice–I’ll not be letting go of that any time soon. 🙂 Thank you, Cathy!

    1. Oh, my clever friend! You are good with words. LOL! And yes, it’s all about the memories. For both of us! I look into his little eyes and just hope and pray that he will always somehow remember how much I love him!

    1. You’re right, Martin! I think following after a toddler is excellent marathon preparation for keeping up with Darwin. He’s “awakened” recently from his winter’s extreme slowdown, and we’re back to problem-solving his habitat. It’s never easy! LOL!

  4. You are so lucky to spend so much time with him. Sadly my granddaughters are across country. They are almost 14 so spending time with the “old folks” doesn’t hold the allure it once did. Enjoy!

    1. They all grow up so fast, don’t they, Kate? I have had my granddaughters so close all these years that at first I really lamented that my son and his family were going to live in the Bay area, and a good 5-6 hour drive. That seemed “far” from me. But I have so many friends, like yourself, truly separated my many, many states and only able to see their grandchildren once or twice a year. I do feel very fortunate. I know what you mean about activities changing with your granddaughters as they age (and we grandparents do, too), but I’m absolutely certain their visits are important to them. Even to have some independence in a grandparents’ home, from my remembrance at that age, felt special! And you have cats! That much better. 🙂

    1. I know what you mean, Nancy! On top of it all, they are wonderful audiences. Make a funny sound, sing an out-of-tune song, stop and admire a jet overhead, and you’re a star! This stage doesn’t last very long, so you have to work fast. 🙂

  5. Yes the little do help keep us young. I remember being taken to Children’s Fairy Land a couple of times when I was a child. It was a long drive from San Jose, and we did have our own version, “Happy Hollow.” I think it was really my mother who wanted to go to Children’s Fair Land and that she had a few kids just aided her cause.

    Spend all the time you can with the little one.

    1. So you experienced Fairy Land as a chid! That’s wonderful! And I think I must have some of the same intrigue as your mother demonstrated. I would be finding children to take there if mine weren’t interested. It’s just so unique. I was impressed with it from every angle, but maybe even more so because it’s right in the middle of Oakland’s civic center. The city has grown up all around it, yet it was preserved and I simply admire that. We did have such a good time. My granddaughters are getting older, and I love them to pieces, but I miss the walking hand in hand and some of the little efforts to nurture that aren’t particularly applicable (or appreciated) any more. LOL!

    1. Your observation is spot on, Jim! Puppies and even most dogs of all ages can give us that mindful meditation time. I think that watching my grandson move about and enjoy his day reminded me that although it might not come naturally to follow suit, it IS possible, especially if we downshift a bit. It was altogether good for my soul. 🙂

  6. Gail

    You find the greatest places to explore, Debra! What a wonderful park to walk in, observe and play. Can I go to Fairyland, sans toddler?? : )

    1. This really is the greatest place, Gail. I was so disappointed in the photos, because many of the best activities included photos of him, and I didn’t want to share them. The whole Lake Merritt area of Oakland is worth the visit, and I’ll be going back again each time we visit, I think. That would be a fun long distance “field trip” for us some time, my friend. You never know! LOL!

  7. Catherine Wade

    Debra, so happy you got to spend so much time with your grandson. You must have been in heaven for sure. I’m planning on a two week trip with my oldest and her two young ones this summer. Hope I (and they) survive it! Can’t wait.

    1. I’m so glad you have something so special to look forward to, Catherine. I’d love to hear more about your plans. I’d suggest you start taking your vitamins now. 🙂

  8. What a beautiful day and a great location! How lucky your grandson is to have you in his life! I also spent about five days with my 2 1/2-year-old great niece — and it is exhausting! A lot of walking around, answering questions, jumping up and down — I think my cardiologist would be pleased with my aerobic workout. 🙂 Be well!

    1. You’re right about your cardiologist’s take on the time with your great niece, Kevin. They are such little busy-bodies at this age! I don’t remember too much about my relationships at quite that young an age, but by 4 I have strong memories of how much I adored my aunts and uncles. Any meaningful time and attention given to young children seems to be so important. And hilarity and exhaustion can go together. 🙂 I am very grateful that I have the ability to really enjoy my little guy’s visits! I hope you continue to be well, also, my friend.

  9. Anonymous

    So glad you had this very special time and hope for more for you with him.. I have my best memories with days and times like this! And I think it did keep me younger! It was wonderful exhaustion which is a funny way to put it!
    Love Deb

    1. I owe you a phone call, Deb. You called while I was in the car driving up to Oakland. I wish I could have told you then where I was headed! “Wonderful exhaustion” is a great way to say it. I’d love to hear about your grandchildren, so we MUST talk soon. I’ll have recovered soon. LOL!

      1. It is as attribute if you can see much of the world with the same child’s sense of wonder and enchantment when you are old and gray even if merely in a sunset or rain or the scent of flowers or evening stars.

  10. Anonymous

    Great post Debbie. Such a precious gift to be able to spend quality time with your precious grandson. I am certain he had a wonderful time with him Grammy. You have such wonderful examples of what a “good grandmother” is. I am sure you are a pro ! What a great place you chose for the outing. I so enjoy Breathelighter. You have so much to contribute – what a blessing.

    1. I wouldn’t know who this is, “someone” except I’m thinking Nancy? You said “Grammy” and that gives you away. LOL! If I’m wrong, please let me know. I’m so glad you stopped by. ox

  11. Golden days you can never get back- nor have too much of, no matter how exhausting. I was toddling beside you every step of the way, Debbie, revelling in your delight. 🙂 🙂 Wishing you many more of the same.

  12. Sounds like you had a great time with your grandson, Debra. Ah “Wheels on the bus” – that takes me back to car journeys and entertaining my daughter as we drove along.

    As for the questionable nature of nursery rhymes I well remember buying a mug in the UK as a present for an American friend and bringing it back to California. It had pictures and a nursery rhyme on it with the words “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse” . She was amused and slightly offended and thought I was being delibrately vulgar whereas I never gave it a thought, it being something I had grown up with as a nursery rhyme.

  13. What fun, Debra, and looks like you made the absolute best out the circumstances at hand. Isn’t it amazing how we did this without a blink of the eye when we were young parents, and really feel it now that we are grandparents – even though you’ve been through this with the older girls? One night, when the Up North family was here, I actually fell asleep while Kezzie was reading me a story. Sigh.

  14. Fairyland is from another place and time, a much simpler time at that. I know you enjoyed every minute. Oh and I bet that song is still going round and round in your head. 🙂

  15. What a lovely time you had with your grandson. 10 acres of animals, water play, … I can imagine how much fun the little one had. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Debra! 🙂

  16. Oh, I know well of the exhaustion you ‘hint’ about. Taking care of a toddler is the best exercise ANYONE can have. And I dare a marathoner to disagree. :–) Lots like a fabulous time was had by young and (not so) young. 🙂

  17. The little one does sound like he has a lot of energy and kept you on your toes – and sounds like he’s growing up very fast. He sure seems excited to run around and explore 🙂 This did look like a fun outing with lovely weather and plenty of space to roam around. I remember listening to ‘Wheels on the Bus’ when I was younger, and sang it in school too. That nursery rhyme is hilarious. A bit violent for the young ones but perhaps good for those of us who are adults 😀

  18. My little bear is no longer a toddler and she still loves “Wheels on the Bus,” we now add our own rendition after we sing the familiar verses. Wishing you luck in your new part-time nanny position, lol!

  19. Judy Hutchinson

    Dear Debra… As I am finally getting to “normal” every now and then, I found your Breathelighter posts. I am so glad to start reading them again. They and you are such a treasure. So glad to see you holding the little guy’s hand in that magical place. But you can make any place magical. Thank you my friend. I miss you and want you in my new year. Judy

    1. Bless you, Judy. We will take some new steps together this year. I want this little blog space to be a nice place for mini-connection and just have the opportunity to share small smiles and thoughts. I am glad you’re making some strides to regain some of the small enjoyments in life again, but normal? I don’t know about that…it’s a strange word under the circumstances, isn’t it. Love you, friend.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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