When my kids were toddlers, they would sometimes rush and fall toward me, grab hold of my knee for a second, exhale as if they were finally safe, and then toddle off, even if that meant crashing into the floor again. I read that this behavior is officially deemed “toddler refeuling.” Now that the kids are mostly or completely grown (whatever that means), they still fill up at the mom, mostly by calling with split second pieces of news before saying, “Gotta go.” Sometimes it’s a facebook message, a text, a look across the room, but basically they’re just touching base before tumbling out into the big and unpredictable world.
I realize that I do my own toddler refueling, but my version takes the form of lunch with friends. We meet over wanton soup and artichoke-spinach eggrolls, big salads, or wide bowls of soup and tiny containers of chocolate pudding to catch up with each other, gasp in appalled support at the indignities of the world, and cheer each on in work, old marriages or new single status, ailing mothers and dead mothers, or our grown children’s latest challenges. Once I fill up at the well of friendship and enchiladas, I head back into the world renewed and just a little more steady in my steps. I also refuel through connections with Ken, making time to talk, even just for five minutes, each day, and particularly through anything that makes us laugh ourselves renewed.
Toddler refueling is a lifetime occupation. Learning to live — which goes on and on and on — is a necessary and dangerous endeavor. We come back to one other, touch someone’s knee or hand, listen and talk, and through the energy we exchange, summon the daring to head back out into the big territory that calls our name.