The Similarities Between A Toddler And Grandmother

By Wendy Rhein

I often feel like I’m living in a social experiment. I am witness to the circle of life every day with a 2 1/2 year old, a 7 year old, a 43 year old and a 72 year old sharing a relatively small space. I really should carry a notebook for my observations but I think my family would only grow more annoyed with me stating the obvious and then smugly writing it down.

I am seeing more and more similarities between my 2½ year old toddler and my 72-year-old mother. I was sick last week, incredibly put on ‘vocal rest’ by my doctor who gleefully told me I should stop speaking for 48 hours. I swear she was laughing when she left the exam room. While ill, I had the chance to study my toddler and septuagenarian mother from the vantage point of the couch and made the following comparisons:

1. Toddlers and the elderly both need a nap in the afternoon if you expect them to stay awake through dinner without a meltdown.
2. They talk on the phone the same way. There are lots of “hello, hello, hello?” at increased levels of volume until they just hang up.
3. One is growing taller and one grows smaller at the same speed.
4. Neither likes to be told they can’t do something.
5. Neither can get passed the Safari icon to find Pandora and both will yell for help when they can’t find their music.
6. When either has to go, they have to go. Get out of the way. Now.
7. The singular focus to achieve a new task like operating the Wii Fit or climbing stairs is inspiring.
8. Both would be happy with cookies and milk for dinner, especially if they missed a nap.
9. Both need shoes with Velcro and preferably with lights.

What I find most interesting is the bond they have. There is a connection, a tenderness, between my mother and my youngest son that is unparalleled. She adores my elder child but there is something about these two, whether they’re sharing a cookie, curling up on the couch hip to hip, or struggling to reach down and get their shoes on, they are co-conspirators in taking on the challenges life is throwing at them.


  1. says

    Beautiful Wendy. My Mom is 85 and my youngest grandchild is 5 1/2 and they really like each other. Marley climbs on her hospital bed and carries on a conversation. It is just wonderful to watch. I so get this as I watch my Mom age and I watch my grandchildren relate to her quite differently, of course, than I do. Lovely story Wendy. Can you leave them alone with each other while you work or do you need a caregiver/baby sitter for either? I know when you moved in together your Mom had some health issues. Hope they have resolved.

  2. Wendy says

    Thanks Madge. Sam is now in full time daycare – a busy 2 year old was simply too much for her. She is integral to my childcare situation though and that back up is incredibly important to me and to her.

  3. says

    Hilarious and beautiful, Wendy. I make this same observation all the time.. though not to the same extent since my mother doesn’t live with me. But it is true that they are bookends and we’re in the middle and they share a very special bond. Nothing gives me greater joy than watching my mother with my children, but at the same time I’m frequently frustrated by a mother who needs me more than she used to. Thank you so much for this wonderful perspective and the reminder to be compassionate and understanding of our elderly parents. My mother may drive me crazy but she’s still around, and that is such a blessing. Thanks for saying these things and making me realize how universal this experience is and how lucky I really am.

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