In Yoga teacher training, we learned how to walk.
It was an actual exercise: take slow, conscious steps, and don’t lift the back foot until the front foot is completely on the floor. It’s terribly difficult for someone like me who was a fast walker before I lived in New York City for nearly a decade. I want to be on to the next step before the first one has even started.
My daughter is just over one year now. For her birthday, my brother sent her a walker toy. It is made of brightly colored wood and has three plastic cylinders filled with toys that toss and turn as she moves along. Some days, this is the most liberating thing that she can do. She squeals and almost takes off into a run. Other days, I try to guide her to stand at the toy and she collapses her knees and falls to the floor, crying and demanding to be held.
She is still a baby, and she reminds me of that often.
Some days I am anxious for her to grow up faster. I want to have actual conversations with her, not one-way repeated dialogues about the dangers of leaning her slippery body over the tub during bath time. I want to take her to Thailand and England and introduce her to art and music. I want to share with her how amazingly beautiful this world is. But she knows that already. She is the one teaching this to me.
I also want to take it slow. I know that one day I will look back and wish I could have been present with her for every moment. Most of her life she will not want to nurse or squirm in my arms as I try to relax after a long day. Soon she will be having sleepovers, jobs, and her own travels. She may not want to see Thailand and England after all. At least not with her mom.
My goal is not to control her movements. Some days I succeed at this, while others I am impatient. But I know that she belongs to Life, not me. Some days, this breaks my heart into tiny little pieces. Other days, I see the freedom of being given space to be someone else besides this person called “mama.” We have many identities, different forms of ourselves that we need to express. To just be a child or a parent can’t possibly contain all the steps we want to take.
We are both learning to walk, the babe and I. Both learning to shift our weight to step firmly onto one foot before we lift the other. While we are often going in different directions, we both can agree that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Still, the glory comes when we catch ourselves in that moment when one foot is free while the other is planted. This is why we keep walking.