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Thoughts from a Toddler Nose Sherpa

Sometimes, as I cut sandwiches into four little triangles and pour milk into little plastic cups, I wonder how all this mothering of small children has affected who I am. For 16 1/2 years straight, I have had kids small enough to require diapers, car seats, and close monitoring more than an occasional bellow up or down stairs asking what they’re doing.

I carry people, daily. I hear crying, daily. Food is transformed into teeny bits and mostly eaten. The rest must be removed from hair, clothing, the floor, and the dog’s back. She knows where to sit.

I seem to always be asking someone where her or his nose is located.

It started with Aidan as an infant. Where is your nose? There it is! And I’d touch it lightly. Then, I’d demonstrate I have a nose, too. Honk. By the time she knew where her nose and elbow and knee were located, it was time to teach Ryley he has a nose. I was going to get his nose. Oops! He found it before I could get it! And then Sam needed to know he has a nose, and then Tommy. I moved on to Joel and his face button.

He was still in diapers, so I never had a reprieve from that duty, when I had my first and second miscarriages. He was nearly three when Beatrix was born—our biggest gap between babies. Joel had long-known his nose and how to drink from a real cup when she was born.

Beatrix learned. I had two more pregnancy losses. Then Archie arrived, then Teddy. Both are experts at locating not only their noses but their smart brains and beeping hearts.


He lies on the floor after having another Pamper’s Sesame Street character slung around his waist. I put his legs back into his pajamas and say legs. I zip them up to his belly and tickle his tummy. Tummy. Zipper, meet chin. Chinny-chin-chin. Where is your nose? He blinks and moves his hands to his face, stopping short—maybe not 100% sure, but that’s okay. I remind him with a tap and a laugh. Eyes, cheeks, ears, and messy curly doodly hair.

I help him to his feet and then I stand, a bit stiff from kneeling on the floor. He wants to be picked up. Later, in his post-lunch trashed high chair, I’ll revisit the geography of his face as I wipe off pear juice and cheese sauce.

16 1/2 years, straight, of these small but divine appointments teaching small but important things must do something to a person’s head-thinker. Someday soon, Ollie is going to show his nose to me when asked and I will be fired from the job of Toddler Nose Sherpa. I will help him arrive, linger for some refresher pop quizzes, tip my cap, and start thinking about helping him identify red, blue, and green. Circle, square, triangle. Orion, Cygnus, Ursa Major.

His universe will expand. Mine already has and continues to this very day. There’s nothing bigger than starting over small with someone.

There's a big world out there.

2 comments to Thoughts from a Toddler Nose Sherpa

  • Mom

    With all the experience and repetition with each child it never gets old. I’m sure you won’t miss the diaper stage though.

  • edj

    Love this pic, Nose Sherpa! (That, btw, is a great name.) And my youngest are 16 and have known their noses for years, but some friend seems to always have a baby around. Lately it’s Iraqi kids, who might know where their أنف is but need to know where their noses can be found.

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