If I’ve been a little quiet lately, it isn’t for lack of things to say. It’s instead for want of two free hands and tired arms regularly extended as if poised to play catch in a trust fall. In one week’s time, Elbee has become a master of maneuverability: scooting, crawling, ducking, grabbing, cruising her way across every square inch of hardwood floor – little red knees and a dusty bottom to show for it.
Author, Wendy Mogel, prepared me for just such a scenario in her book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.” (Aside: Tremendous read and I somewhat suspect you don’t need to be a Jewish parent, or a parent at all, to appreciate it, but you tell me.) Anyway, the goal, she points out, is to raise the sort of kids who can function without you, who leave you someday feeling relatively ok about it and who ultimately trust themselves to do what’s right because you (and the mistakes you let them make) taught them invaluable life lessons. Also, our kids are on loan. Get ready. Get set.
For most folks, it goes a little something like this.
One day, your kid will be desperate for you to chauffeur her from the nursery to the living room in your arms, delight at your dramatic recitation of Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book, clap for you while you play with her toys and cling to the 2013 version of your apron strings. (Probably, she wants to taste your iPhone.) The next day, forget you. Just unleash her. She has an entertainment center to reorganize anyway. And, by “reorganize,” I really just mean mess that ish up. If you’re lucky, she’ll turn her head in your general direction because she recognizes the sound of that voice muttering the word she’s probably beginning to think is her first name: No. And if seeing her cruise the coffee table takes your breath away, tough. Someday she’s going to ask for your car keys.
Now consider the fact that when our Elbee was three weeks old and newly-diagnosed with the trifecta of food allergies/allergic colitis/GERD, she aspirated on some combination of fresh breast milk and her own vomit. I’m not talking about a little oops-it-went-down-the-wrong-pipe, cough-cough, all-better scenario either. I’m talking she couldn’t breathe. At all. She turned purple. And I actually got to use some of what I learned in that Infant/Child CPR class. It was an experience that served the twofold purpose of heightening my anxiety and driving home the feeling that every second we’re blessed with our children is precious. Whereas I know things can get much worse, if my kid is still breathing, I have to believe I’m in relatively good shape here. Better get to livin’, as my girl Dolly Parton says. Better indeed.
I don’t want to be to thank for an emotionally crippled, neurotic, needlessly dependent human, after all. I want her to explore her world and test her limits. And better still if she can do so sans blood loss. Also, I hate wimps.
With this in mind, I enrolled her in swim lessons though I’m quietly terrified of drowning. I encouraged her to fraternize with that kid blowing snot bubbles and tugging at his little ears at play group last week. And I let her attempt to stand on her own two feet this afternoon, clapping emphatically when she fell flat on her baby face. She wears her first black eye like a badge of courage which, in many respects, it is.
Maybe I could have caught her. Maybe. And maybe she wouldn’t look like such the Million Dollar Baby if I had. The point is, I didn’t.
Because I hope she likes water. (And, if not, I hope she at least learns to swim.) I hope she never fails to overlook opportunities to meet people who might become her best friends even if they are oozing from their orifices. And I hope she fails a lot in her quest to stand on her own two feet (metaphorically, actually, whatever) because this means she’ll have really tried something. Chances are pretty good, too, that, occasionally, she’ll find she’s not that bad at it.