It seems like it was just yesterday. It was, in fact, nearly the same time of year. The garden bloomed profusely, and she was just finding the confidence to let her feet take her where she wanted to go. We were never so happy that Fisher Price created a structure sturdy enough to endure the speed with which she would race down the long hallway, wheels screaming on the hardwood floors, the beam of her smile indicating her pride. She was independent; she no longer needed dad’s strong fingers to guide her steps. The tripod shaped vehicle was all the support necessary to take her where she wanted to go. And she always wanted to get there in a hurry.
I remember questioning if she’d ever have the courage to let go of that vehicle; at one year old, I expected her to be walking like some other babies I’d seen. But she was my first, my test-child, and when she grinned from behind her handlebars I knew that she was right where she needed to be. She was taking life on her terms even then; there was no time to waste, and she needed to find the fastest course between two points. Just over a year old, full of courage and determination.
It wasn’t long after that she began vaulting out of her crib, too. Nap times? Non-existent. Life had far too much to offer to waste any moment behind bars. She wanted to explore, to climb, to be surrounded by her people. It no longer mattered how soothing her nursery was, or how cozy I made her nap time ritual. When she swung those long, skinny legs over the side, we knew life was about to change. I think I even spent a night or two on the floor beside her crib, hoping that it was a fluke but knowing that if she vaulted, I would be there to break her fall. At that age, she already knew where she needed to be-and it wasn’t in her crib.
We weren’t quite ready for life with a toddler, but in reality, who ever really is? I’ve written countless times about the absolute inadequacy I felt at becoming a new mother, and how I’ve had to learn to rejoice in every moment. It’s kind of a cruel trick that life plays on some of us, those who get so caught up in the minutia of the moment that we miss the true beauty happening right in front of us.
And today I find myself equally unprepared, fighting nearly identical feelings of inadequacy about letting her go. The more I look back, the more I know that all that we have done, and all that we have experienced, has prepared us both for the moment yet to come – the moment when we wave goodbye, tears trickling down our cheeks, and walk away. The moment when she is right where she needs to be, on the precipice of her new life, ready to take it head on. She’s almost eighteen years old, still full of courage and determination.
This post was inspired by the novel Dad Is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan who riffs on his adventures co-parenting 5 kids in a two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 22 we discuss Dad Is Fat. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.