my son started walking last week. he’s thirteen and a half months old and i was beginning to worry a bit, in the way that mothers do, that he hadn’t started to walk yet. i was comparing myself to other mothers by comparing my son to other children, which is of course a trap of the most preposterous and common kind. we all compare ourselves and, by extension, our children to the great “everybody” in our minds, the one that is not clearly definable except in their superiority to us. none the less, i was relived and also proud when he let go of the couch and took those first steps. from there, every day, he’s gotten more confident and braver as he pulls himself up and sets off across the room, a bit shaky but overjoyed.
what i didn’t expect was how much he would fall after he learned to walk. i guess i had assumed that once he finally got it down and set off on his own, he’d just get better at it and we’d all live happily ever after. but of course, i was wrong. i have been witness to several nasty spills, daily. some of them have been epic face plants on to or into hard pieces of furniture, or sharply angled walls. presently his beautiful little moon face sports 2 giant bumps and a blue-ish hued scrape across his chubby cheek.
it is quite a thing to have to watch your baby go through this. i see him take off with wild abandon, i hold my breath, i urge him to be careful, and cringe fully when he smacks down. in the past few days i’ve become aware of a future with him that hadn’t really started to come into focus yet. the first year is survival. the first year is so enormous and so tiny all at once. it is minute to minute. their faces and features are not developed, they are still forming and so are you, really. just looking back at photos of my son from 6 months ago, i see a changed little person, i see the little man he is becoming, no longer that tiny baby. watching these falls without really being able to stop them is scary and heartbreaking, but it’s not without an awareness that this is only the beginning.
motherhood, for me, has been about being aware that i do not control things. from day one my son has been here to tell me that things will go a million different ways, despite my plans, and all that i can do is be there with him. that’s it. i can’t always make it better. i can’t always fix it. i can’t always win. it is interesting because lately i’ve been thinking a lot about all of the failures of my life. seeing my son fall down and get back up again, over and over, is stressful but also yet another way that he brings perspective to my life. as much as he teaches me about letting go of my need to control, he teaches me about the inherent nature of things. in his thirteen and a half months i have worried and planned and plotted and pushed and pulled and all the while, had to stand back and watch as he ran his own course. i’ve watched him move from one milestone to the next in his own time, despite my plans.
seeing him fall down and cry loudly and then get back up and stumble along again reminds me not so much that i need to have determination but that i will go on, despite myself. despite my failures and despite my ambitions, there seems to be some track that i walk. i believe less and less in a fate or destiny but more in a track. a set of lessons that is always there like a sky full of stars, just waiting for me to look up, for my eyes to focus on one of them. it makes me think of the tarot card 2 of pentacles. the image shows a man juggling two pentacles within an infinity symbol. behind him ships ride large waves that sink and rise. i think also how appropriate it is that my son is a libra, the sign of balance. to me these things symbolize not the grace with which you handle obstacles but the acceptance that there will always be obstacles. there is an ebb and flow, ups and downs, high and low tides. to me it is not only that you will fall down but you will get up again and sometimes you will wildly flail into sharp edges and sometimes you will sail right by them. it will all happen. in your life it is probable that often you will take the same kind of steps into the same dark corners. but you will pull yourself out of them, too.
seeing my son begin to learn about falling down and getting back up, seeing him in pain and experiencing those feelings of helplessness over not being able to fix it for him demand a certain kind of faith. i have to believe that he will be okay. that he’ll figure it out and the bruises will heal and one day he’ll run, not walk. i have to believe this because it is truth. i have seen it with every milestone he has reached and passed by, the natural order of things exists. life goes forward and you stumble along. the world keeps turning.