First steps / by Christina Rosalie

Bean started WALKING today. For the past couple weeks he’s been doing these graceful nearly-running transitions between pieces of furniture, hands free, and we’ve been able to coax him to let go of something and sort of stumble-tumble towards us for a few steps for the past week or so. But today he really walked.

I saw the exact moment when it clicked for him—when he realized “I’M STANDING, AND I’M NOT FALLING, AND NOW I’M MOVING FORWARD.” He was holding onto a chair and then let go and took a step towards me, and I started clapping and he stopped moving and just stood still. All on his own. In the middle of the room.

It was as if a lightening bolt of recognition shot through him. He started beaming this wide, pleased grin. And then he took steps towards me. Determined little steps, one after the next, all by himself.

Since that moment he’s walked nearly all the way across the living room, his lower lip sucked in with concentration. Like quicksilver, the neurons in his brain are sending a thousand instantaneous messages urging him to try it again, and again, and again. Out into the middle of the room, away from the peripheries, the furniture, the safety net of mama’s legs—and into the wide expanse of open floor. Suddenly bipedal. Upright.

These steps are his first independent steps towards me, and yet his first steps away from me, as his own person.

This leaves me breathless with wonder and love and terror all at once. There are mornings like this morning—and nights like last night, where everything is awry and he pushes every button and I am left feeling frantic and angry at the end of wrestling him to sleep, or calming him down. He has become so clear about what he wants—and so frustrated and mad when his desires are not met. When he can’t have my cell phone to play with, or worse--when he wants to MUNCH on me while nursing, and I pull away with a fierce yelp, he dissolves in tears. First of remorse, then of fury.

Something has definitely shifted for him. He is aware of himself differently—and aware of his own needs differently. He has preferences. He longs for me intensely when I’m gone and wraps his arms around my neck tightly when I return. He looks up for approval when he tries something new—or stops, just before he does something dastardly, to check in and see if he’s allowed. He has begun to understand that there is an order to things. That there are boundaries. And with each boundary, he pushes to find just how far he can go before he finds it.

It amazes me that this deepening awareness coincides with the beginning of upright independent mobility. Just as he is beginning to discover that there are both obvious boundaries (he no longer crawls headlong towards the edge of the bed without stopping) and implied boundaries (he looks to me, with a wily grin, just before he reaches out to pull CDs off the shelf, because he knows I’ll stop him), he has suddenly gained an entirely different perspective on the world. This is the beginning of doing it his own self.

Already he wants to drink from a cup, his own self. He wants to eat, his own self. He wants to claim this world for his own self. I can only pray I’ll have the patience to navigate this new terrain. Already he has learned how to shake his head “no” and when he wants to do something himself that I am trying to do for him, he shakes his head, “no, no, no.” I nod my head, “yes, yes, yes.”

Now begins the challenge of being consistent. Of remaining steadfast like a buoy, providing him with the security of limits. But also, this is the beginning of a new dance. One where he leads sometimes, and I follow after.