Hummingbirds, Toddlers, and Ruling the World

We have a hummingbird feeder in the back yard. It hangs from a pole in a rose bush outside one of the windows of the breakfast room and we watch the birds while we are eating.

I’m no expert on hummingbird behavior, but I have observed that for such small creatures, they each seem rather inclined to try to maintain a competitive advantage over the other hummingbirds.

They play a sort of hummingbird game of one-upmanship!

Here’s what I mean.

Although there are places for four (or more) birds to feed simultaneously and there is plenty of nectar for them all, they charge at one another, seemingly to prevent any other birds from using the feeder.

It’s like they want to gain an advantage by holding the others back. But they never seem to keep one another away because they are all so fast and quick.

So what do hummingbirds have to do with raising toddlers?

Well, I’m also no expert on toddler behavior, but I have observed that for such small creatures, they each seem rather inclined to try to maintain a competitive advantage over the other toddler.

Here’s what I mean.

What’s your name?

The following conversation took place the other day while we were driving in the car. This conversation is a common one and it occurs frequently:

I’m Bubby and don’t you forget it!

Kenzie asks me from her car seat, “What’s your name?”

She obviously knows my name and who I am. I don’t know if she needs some reassurance, wants to make a particular point, or if she’s just messing with me.

Whatever the reason, don’t think that it’s just idle toddler chatter. There’s a purpose…

So this time I decide to mess with her and I answer, “I’m Kaleb!”

So Kaleb chimes in, “I’m Bubby!” (He insists that we call him Bubby, not Kaleb.)

Then Kenzie says, “I’m Kaleb!”

And Kaleb says, “I’m Poppy!”

So Kenzie decides to go one better and she says, “I’m Conner!”

(Conner is their part-time nanny. She is a teenager and like a big sister. Sissy calls her “Conners” and thinks she owns her! Conner comes a few evenings a week, fixes their dinner, plays with them, and gets them ready for bed.)

So “being Conner” is evidently better then “being Poppy.”

Next Kaleb raises the stakes again and says, “I’m two Conners!” (Kaleb calls her Conner, except when he’s referring to her as multiple persons.)

And Kenzie responds with “I’m three Conners!”

As they continued to banter back and forth, increasing the number of Conners and finally breaking into a toddler argument about who’s the best, my mind wanders to the hummingbirds darting at one another trying to gain an advantage and rule over the feeder.

Could the same thing be going on here?

I’m the boss! No, I’m the boss!

All this meaningless repartee isn’t some kind of toddler identity crisis. It has meaning and purpose!

It’s a serious game of one-upmanship! Raising the stakes!

Being bigger and better by putting the other one down!

Ruling their toddler world from the confines of their car seat!

But don’t think too badly of them. They are no different than the grown-ups they are learning to be.

After all, isn’t that what we all want, to be in control of our own little worlds?

Unlike the hummingbirds, however, I hope they can learn that their own success in this world doesn’t have to come at the expense of others. They don’t have to put others down to lift themselves up.

The road to success is best traveled by stopping along the way every once in a while to help someone else succeed.

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