There is a period of time, as a mother, when a single day feels like several weeks. When you are too tired to wash your face before bed, or paint your nails ever. This space of time is labeled if you have ever taken your child to a day care. A single word changes your whole life:
It’s important to discuss the journey we took as a mother and son from Brady’s first wobbly step to what seemed like a brisk jog around the room. For a long time, I focused on walking as a goal for my son. Fist he would roll, then he would crawl, then he’d climb, and ultimately he would secure his status as a man cub and stroll right into town on two legs. For weeks after his first step, we practiced walking every day.
I’d pull him up, he’d wobble on his two chubby legs, shift slightly in weight as if he were on the verge of lifting his foot, and topple over. I would help him up, and we would repeat the process.
Over and over.
I added crackers for extra motivation (Brady is his mother’s son when it comes to food being his sole motivation for movement), but we made no progress. He just couldn’t do it. I read books, I tried to engage him in “walking games”, I researched studies online. Nothing seemed to work, as Brady preferred to scoot around or climb to get where he wanted to go. It was so frustrating, because he walked so well when he held onto something, but he wouldn’t do it by himself. On the verge of his first birthday, we were constantly bombarded with “Why isn’t he walking yet? MY child walked at (insert single digit month)”. I began to feel like an awful parent. What kind of mother can’t encourage her child to walk?
One day, at church (where most of my revelations apparently occur- not much of a coincidence, huh?), I was holding Brady’s hand as he led me around in the back. Stressed, tired, evaluating my life choices, I was only half-heartedly walking him around. Abruptly, Brady stopped, looked up and me, and just smiled. The kind of grin that says words you can’t hear. The kind of smile that helps you understand something in your heart. It was the rare moment that sneaks up on you and leaves you all in the same second, leaving you wishing you could replay it over and over for the rest of your life. I was suddenly fully aware that my only son was holding my hand.
He wanted to hold my hand. He was happy to be holding my hand.
All at once, it was enough for me.
I had been caught up in my own expectations for Brady, and disappointed when I couldn’t make him meet them. Much as I was (and continue to be) blessed with, I was focusing on the wrong parts of my relationship with my son- and humanity, for that matter. I wasn’t cherishing each second he clasped my finger. I didn’t swell with gratitude when he sought my hand for support. I cared too much about hearing family members comment about how well their children walked at 9 months and how I must be doing something wrong. There are so many missed opportunities to take in the good of the world because I am focused on something less important. After that space of a second in church with Brady leading me along, I vowed that I would never consciously resent a single second that my boy needed me. There will be a time soon enough that he will not.
That time came a few weeks ago, when Ethan sat upon the couch, rambling about the Constitution and eating popcorn. Within the first few audible crunches of corn, Brady stood up, and casually strolled across the room to the popcorn tin (a little Frankenstein-ish though, I’ll admit). He probably took 15 steps in a row, shattering his previous record of two and leaving us staring with wonder.
Although he’s reached the celebrity status of “walker” now, he still sometimes searches for a hand to steady himself, to reassure him he won’t fall. I never hesitate to offer him mine.