Congratulations – you are a walker. Last weekend, you took your first few steps toward your father, your favorite dog Bernie and a plateful of peaches. Just as it should be. And the excitement that flowed through me was a shock – and I mean that both literally and figuratively. There was an electric current pulsing in and out of my veins as my smile widened and stretched from the east to the west and back again, more proud than I’ve ever been. It surprised me, this pride. I mean, babies grow and learn to walk and talk and ask for their parents’ credit cards. That’s what they do. But Bee, I was completely awestruck by you. It was like witnessing the complete manifestation of your independence, balancing atop two wobbly but determined ankles. And I just melted.
You’re growing fast now and time is snowballing. Your favorite game is “What is that?” which has only one rule: you point at things and say “Dat?” and then we identify them. The rule, of course, is that the game doesn’t end, so your father and I spend the bulk of our day brushing up on our vocabulary and discussing whether or not this is a sofa or that is a couch. Porch or patio? Bathroom or restroom? Oh, the decisions, Bee, and on some days, I feel the weight of these. What if I teach you the wrong word? What if you’re forever condemned in 4th grade because you pronounce “crayon” wrong or you call it soda instead of pop? What if, what if, what if?
We found a piece of gravel stuck between your two front teeth last week. It was wedged so perfectly that it required four minutes of struggle and a few bite marks to retrieve it, and my mind immediately raced to worst case scenario: that you’d swallowed a rock and this gravel was a remnant left behind, and now the rock is going to sit at the pit of your stomach, slowly attracting other food bits until you have a massive cyst of debris that renders you unable to stand up straight or float, and you would never learn to walk because surely, by now, the food rock was a 70 pound boulder and you simply couldn’t possible propel yourself forward with that much resistance from your intestines.
This is what my head is like, Bee. It is a messy place, full of worry and anxiety and worst case scenarios that don’t quite reflect any semblance of reality. The “What If?” soundtrack is always on repeat, and until this weekend, I had a hard time hearing anything above the noise.
But then you started walking. And the gravel came out. And your birthday is coming up. And all of these signs are pointing to resilience, for all of us. We are stronger than we know.
When I learned to drive, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that if your foot wasn’t on the brake, you were moving forward. So for the first few weeks, there was a lot of back and forth and fast and slow and gas and brake until, finally, it clicked and I learned that there was a beautiful balance to it all. That my foot could be neither on the brake, nor the gas, and we could still get from A to B.
And this year has felt a lot like those early weeks as I learned to operate something that was larger than me, something that had weight. We had days of ebb and flow, Bee, where the ride was a bit jerky, yes, but we’d ride along happily until I’d realize my foot was off the brake – that I hadn’t washed your hands or given you enough sunscreen or packed the bug spray – and then I’d slam the brake out of fear and insecurity and we’d both feel the jolt. And then I’d gun it, pressing my foot on the gas as hard as I could, praying this phase would pass because it was more than I could handle.
But we’re older now. And wiser, and more experienced. And we’re strong, Bee. Strong enough to drive wherever we please, with the radio blaring and the “What If?” soundtrack nowhere in sight. Strong enough to roll down the windows and let the wind mess with our hair and our expectations.
And, as of last weekend, strong enough to forgo the car entirely and on some days, just walk. Congratulations, sweet Bee. This was a big milestone for all of us.