STOP, and Smell the Sidewalk Chalk

When I hear people talk about juggling, or the sacrifices they make for their children, I look at them like they're crazy, because 'sacrifice' infers that there was something better to do than being with your children.

 – Chris Rock

I look around and see people go-go-going. Phones are buzzing. Cars are speeding. We all have places to go and people to see. Everything is always moving and changing around us and we’re in a huge hurry to get the newest iPhone, or check out the latest video game, or TiVo three television shows because we need to stay up to date on so many of them that they all play at the same time. Meanwhile, there’s something else that is always changing, but it’s happening right before our eyes so taking time to take a deep breath and watch sometimes gets forgotten.

Our kiddos are growing up. My beautiful girl runs around full of energy and interest and awe in the world. She is learning how to communicate and her giant little personality knocks the wind out of me on a daily basis. I love her more everyday, but sometimes take a moment to reflect on the fact that while I’m enjoying every new moment with her, I will never again get to watch my chunky little babe do the wiggle dance she’d do once she discovered she had control over her arms and legs. I love my new girl, but I miss that baby and I need to remember to soak in every second that I can because it’s passing in a flash and pretty soon, I’m going to miss the toddler who barks at everyone she sees because she wants to show off her newest word.

We live in a second floor condo with a single set of stairs going down to our parking lot. Although we obviously take care to keep Elisa away from them when she’s not supervised, we have gone out of our way to teach her respect for stairs in the event that she gets outside. Whenever we leave our house, she loves walking up and down herself, and although it takes a bit of extra time, I try to always leave in time to let her do it.

This weekend, Elisa and I went down to the parking lot to play with sidewalk chalk. When she was finished, she cleaned up the chalk herself, put the lid on the container and began walking with it towards the stairs. Now, for the sake of painting a picture, the container is a large, repurposed tin that used to hold peanuts from Costco. For a babe that’s two feet tall, with proportionally tiny arms, this is a big tin which usually requires the use of two hands. Once she got to the stairs, I expected her to ask for help, which she normally will do, but instead, she set about figuring out how to climb up the stairs while carrying this giant container. She tried different ways of holding the tin, different ways of going up the steps, and different ways of grabbing the railings, but continued to smile and deny my offers to help. I stood behind her patently while she struggled and on a few occasions, she stumbled and I helped her balance. When that happened, she’d smile a thank you and resume her mission.

By the time she made it halfway up the stairs, she had figured out that the tin could be held by wrapping her left arm around it entirely and if she used her right arm to grab a bar from the railing that was in front of her, instead of to the side, she could hoist herself forward. The second half of her journey was not without struggle; even with a plan, she is still only two feet tall and wobbly, but she made it to the top. At which point she turned around, handed the tin to me, and proceeded directly back down the stairs. At the bottom, she took the tin back and began her journey up again. This time, when she reached the top, she gave me a satisfied grin, set down the chalk, and went on to her next activity.

I tell this story for a reason that is bigger than describing how clever and adorable my kid is, (just trust that she is extremely clever and adorable). I tell it because it helps me reflect on how beautiful it was to watch her little mind learn and grow. The entire episode probably lasted a half hour and I could have easily interrupted her instead of standing silently on a stairway in 90 degree heat. If I’d have put her in front of her water table, she’d have quickly forgotten about her mission, but she wouldn’t have figured out how to solve this problem that for some reason, she so badly wanted to solve. It was wonderful for me to stand back and take the time to appreciate how her little developing mind and body worked together to accomplish such a seemingly simple task and see her beam with pride when it was accomplished.  

September 16, 2013 by Allison Lund
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