Baby Steps

I decided to share this blog I wrote here, because it was such a simple thing, yet such a landmark moment for me. I frequently think about it, because this one moment symbolizes so much of parenthood for me. Maybe it’ll resonate with you, too? …

Originally written August 22, 2012 (Homer was 18 months old).
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As we got to the top of the stairs, I held his hand, as I always do. He began to cry, something he’s started doing lately. He pulled his hand as forcefully as he could, trying to get away from my grip. I resisted, creating a tug-o-war of tension that scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want him tumbling down the stairs! I relaxed my arm, and he relaxed his pull, and I let go to see what he wanted to do. He sat down immediately. Then, realizing he was free, he stood up. I reached out for his hand again and he shook his head, pulled his shoulder up to his ear, scrunching himself smaller, angling away from me. “No,” he said.

I realized what he wanted. He wanted to do it himself.

I stood in front of him, and my tiny boy moved over to the other side of the stairs. He put his arm on the wall to balance, his hand not quite reaching the bannister. And he smiled. A look of concentration replaced his smile and he began his descent. One little shoe came down, then the other one joined it. Step-step… Step-step… I walked backward down the stairs directly in front of him, spotting him but not touching him. My heart was in my throat, but my inner voice said, “Trust him. He’s ready.”

In an instant, he was a teenager, standing before me, hand outstretched for the keys to the car. In an instant, he was 18, ready to leave home into the grand world. This isn’t the last time you’ll need to trust him, I thought, and tears pricked my eyes. This is where it begins, I thought, as my little boy stepped steadily, confidently, more quickly than I’d expected, down the staircase, balancing so well, doing great. I felt my anxiety simmering wildly, but I kept it under the lid, as he did what he needed to do, as a simple staircase became a symbol for burgeoning independence.

When he reached the very last step, he stopped suddenly. He raised his face and his eyes met mine. He reached out his hand to me, and I wanted so much just to take it.

Instead I said, “You’ve got this.”

He looked at the ground, that one last step, then at me again.

I made my voice more sure, because I *was* sure. “You did all the others just great, and you can do this one too. You’ve *got* this. Go ahead,” I said, with a nod and a great big smile.

He looked down, thought for a second, then sat down, scooted forward, planted his feet on the ground and stood up. Before I’d even started to cheer, “Yay!” for him, his hands were in the air, as he shouted, “Yeah!!” with the most confident smile I’ve ever seen him wear.

We walked to the garage, side by side, both of us smiling, as a few more tears slid down my cheeks.