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My non-verbal toddler is teaching me how to trust

upset little girl

Yulia YasPe | Shutterstock

Cecilia Pigg - published on 01/23/24

The Lord told us to be as little children. That takes on a whole new meaning when you have a small, non-verbal screecher in your life.

The sound of a high-pitched shriek fills the room. I turn around with my heart pounding, expecting to see blood gushing forth from a wounded child — but no. The child in question is completely unharmed; he is just upset because he wants a turn with the LeapFrog book that his big brother is holding. My once quiet, amiable baby has become a toddler with opinions, and he has two older brothers to outvoice. He is still generally happy and amiable, but his facility with language does not match his budding sense of justice. And so, he resorts to screaming to alert me when he needs assistance in some way.

I see myself in my one-and-a-half-year-old as he screeches. His response to frustrating situations is completely overblown, and difficult for the outside observer to interpret. It might be that his fork dropped out of reach, or it might be that an older brother knocked him over. Either way, his immediate response is the same demanding noise that means “Mom, help me out here!”

I’m not so different from my toddler

I know that I too respond to life’s daily annoyances in an overblown way. I also struggle to accurately put my frustrations into words when someone asks me, “What’s wrong?” It turns out that I am still stuck in toddler communication mode, far into adulthood. But there is something beautiful in my toddler’s reaction that I often overlook. When he needs help, he turns immediately to me or to his dad. He trusts that if he calls out, we will come. He knows my husband or I will stop what we are doing to address his needs, and to correct the situation as best we can.

Upset boy toddler hugs mom

Now, we don’t always respond to him well; we are distracted or impatient ourselves. But he hasn’t let our failures to love him perfectly thus far prevent him from reaching out to us again and again. Someday, as we continue in our imperfect attempts to love him, he may stop asking us for help. He may let the hurt and pain of our past mistakes take center stage and refuse to forgive us and allow us to try again. But for now, when he has a need, he reaches out immediately to us, the people he loves and trusts.

If only my reliance on God were similar.

My imperfect cry

As I ponder our toddler’s communication, I ask myself, why don’t I turn the cry of my heart to God? Why don’t I reach out to the only One who loves me perfectly when I come face to face with my weakness and the weakness of those around me? God will never love me imperfectly; unlike the human and broken way I love my children. But, sadly, I know that I wrongly perceive God’s love as imperfect. I count the ways I do not hear His answers when I ask questions. I focus on the ways He hasn’t answered me in the way I hoped. Like a teenager who tallies all the inconsistencies and failures of his parents and finds them no longer credible, I do the same with God.

Instead, I should be willing to cry out whenever something is wrong. Even if I am not sure how to articulate what is wrong, saying “Help me!” or the prayer “Lord, make haste to help me!” (Psalm 70) should be my toddler screech equivalent, begging Jesus for help daily. If I don’t ever call out, I won’t readily see the ways He comes to my aid. I know from the past it’s true that the more I call, the more I will see Him at work. And the more I see Him at work, the more my weak heart will maybe come to understand His infinite love even though “His ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

You may not have a non-verbal screecher in your life right now. But if the goal is to become as little children (Matthew 18:3), may we all become better at crying out for help daily, with every expectation that He will answer us.

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