We went away to Michigan City this past weekend, four days with Scott’s Dad, stepmom, three stepbrothers and their families. It’s a fun-filled few days of sun and kids and carbohydrates and fats in forms you’d not normally consume.
When packing Abigail’s things, I stopped short when I noticed the wear patterns forming on her sneakers. More to the point, that they had wear patterns at all. My baby walks and toddles through this world with enough conviction now that the soles of her tiny kicks have worn in certain places and have grass and mud stains galore. How did it happen that my daughter is this big?
All weekend I had those moments, though perhaps not as weird and precious. Watching Abigail relate with other kids, watching them relate to her…all things that left me simultaneously joyful and protective, proud and nervous. Her cousins all love and adore her, and seem to work tirelessly to make sure she knows it, but oh. OH. The day will come when she meets kids who just won’t love her like that. And there will be little I can do.
Our second day at the pool, for the second time in her short life, it was clear that the raft I’d bought for AG was causing her more grief than not. I mean, she liked it, of course, but she began to get listless and irritated, and it was clear she wanted more action than the raft was providing. There was little access to the surface for the sort of full-contact splashing she was desperately after. So, we took her out.
In what seemed like seconds – but was probably more like minutes – Abigail and me, and, alternatively, Abigail and Scott, began bouncing up and down in the water. Tentatively at first and then with the sort of gusto reserved for at least four-year-olds. Water was splashing all around us, and AG was unfazed. Water in her mouth, in her eyes…it didn’t seem to bother her one iota.
Scott, at one point, swam her over to the edge of the pool, near the steps, to practice standing in the water (we were in a kiddie pool no deeper than two-feet at the opposite end). After a bit, Abigail proceeded to climb out and walk around to the edge.
“Jump to Dad, Abigail,” Scott gently directed. “Jump to Daddy!”
Sure enough, she did.
And then did it again. And again. And again.
Over and over, Abigail would climb out of our arms, out of the pool, only to toddle to the edge, stretch her arms out wide, take two tiny steps, jut one leg out as far as she could, smile and leap.
When I think about the things we heap onto our children, it’s plain to see how we can so easily transfer our own shit onto them. How, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss who they are entirely, thinking that their gifts, their shortcomings, their everything are somehow an extension of ourselves. But it’s not quite like that, is it? I mean, it is in some respects. There is much about Abigail that resembles her father and me. Patience is a virtue that, like me, she’ll likely struggle to master. But she is truly her own person, and she’s moving through the world, small as it is now, and experiencing it all for herself.
Abigail is, without a doubt, the bravest, most fearless little soul I know. Braver than I am.
Abigail charges, heart-first, into everything she encounters. And even though for now it’s just a wading pool, tomorrow it will be her deepest desire and biggest dreams.
I ache a little, knowing that the road ahead will be bumpy. It can’t not be; it’s life. “Bumpy” is how you know you’re doing it right. Just the same, she’ll go off and do and be completely detached from me and her Dad. And while I know I was once much bolder than I am now, I struggle mightily to remember that’s my baggage, not hers.
But in the moments that seem dark, when maybe she’s not sure she can soldier on, what I can do for her is show her this picture and remind her of how bold she has always been.
Since her very first steps.