Yesterday, Willow walked from her bedroom to the kitchen without falling. Mind you, our apartment is small. Still, this is quite an accomplishment, since her bedroom and the kitchen are the farthest distance apart. It was well over 50 steps.
At home, the last few days, she has been transitioning from crawling-only to walking-only. Although she has been working on walking for quite some time (cruising since 6 months old, and taking a few steps here and there since 10 months old), I can see that she has finally gained the confidence to cross longer stretches on her own two feet. Something has definitely "clicked" in Willow's head: she has figured out that walking is possible. Oh man, this baby is always ready to try something new. She is an adventurer, a climber, a risk taker, foolishly stubborn, and a silly-willy.
Somewhere around, "50, 51, 52,...." it hit me that I didn't need to count her steps anymore. And that's when something "clicked" in my head too. Her baby steps are definitely a milestone for her, but they're also a milestone in my journey as a mother. It caused me to reflect upon my own steps that have brought me up to this point. I started thinking backwards, going back in time, trying to retrace my steps.
Physical steps mark my life with important memories, testimonies of faithfulness, and even reminders of failure.
- The steps I took into the hospital last July when I was in labor.
- Steps that wandered around my classroom
- Those first exhausted steps into our China apartment
- When I walked down the aisle three years ago
- Wearing black heals, walking across a stage, shaking a hand, grasping a diploma
- When I left America for the first time, without Adam, for three months
- Freaked out steps, as I walked into the Commons, looking for the mystery flower guy [Adam]
- The steps I took away from my parents as they dropped me off at college
- Steps in a school uniform, dance shoes, figure skates, soccer cleats, and jelly sandals
- Running steps, climbing-up-trees-steps, acting-on-stage-steps
- And I'm sure at some point, I was taking my first steps. I bet I was clumsy and that I fell a lot. I'm not a natural athlete, and Grace is not my middle name. Heck, I almost fell over last week and I wasn't even doing anything.
There have been spiritual steps too: either bringing me closer to God--or farther from His embrace.
- Trying so hard to keep in line, to be a good girl, to say the right thing at the right time.
- Steps striving for sanctification and getting caught up in perfectionism.
- Steps striving for unity, and getting thrown off track by uniformity.
- Steps running after God's will, and getting distracted in the process.
I've taken so many steps. I may have many more to go.Then, I look at my baby girl--who is stepping around for the first time. Walking from her bedroom to the kitchen. Walking to me when she's scared. Walking to the cabinets to cause more destruction. Walking from the slide to the steps at the playground...For a second I wonder, "Am I getting too emotional about Willow walking?"
So, in no particular order, here are my reflections about learning how to walk:
- God must find us endearing at times. Just as she's toddling around on her chubby feet, falling here and there, exhausting herself, testing out her balance--we do the same thing as we toddle through life. The way she walks is so endearing--she picks her feet straight up and sets one wobbly foot in front of the other with such side-to-side motion it's hard to believe she can keep her balance. Each step brings her a mere two inches closer to her goal. Baby steps are the definition of endearment, endurance, and enthusiasm wrapped up together. As I find joy in Willow's progress and growing maturity, the Father also finds joy in His children.
- A reminder that this is the beginning of letting go: my steps will be alongside hers for a brief amount of time. I hear that if you 'blink', kids will grow up. But when my steps cannot be alongside hers anymore, I have comfort in knowing that He is able to walk with and guide her forever. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: with each passing day, Willow needs me less and less. I think it is the cutest thing to watch her walk, to rejoice in her success, and to comfort her when she falls. But the reality is, she is crawling far less often. I will miss her crawling. I desperately want her to develop and grow--but part of me is so sad to say goodbye to this 'baby stage'. I mean, she had to learn how to walk eventually, but watching her walk is another reminder that she is not mine to keep.
- Failures: As she learns to become more independent, I need to allow her make mistakes and to pursue her own dreams. I will always be there to comfort her, but she might choose to be comforted by another. And ultimately, I hope that she will choose the Father as her comforter above everyone else (including me!). Making mistakes is parting of learning and growing. If she is not allowed to 'fall down', how will she learn to get back up? As much as I want to protect her from all harm, I need to acknowledge that over-protection is another form of harm. Sometimes, I have to watch her fall. She has to learn how to balance through trial and error--not just with walking, but with so many other facets in life. She has to be allowed to run full force smack dab in the middle of a wall or off the side of a curb because then she will learn about and better appreciate boundaries and warnings.