The game has changed. Considerably.
My 10-month-old princess went to spend the day with some of her older cousins a few weeks ago, and it apparently left an impression. After falling asleep on the car ride home, and falling into an even deeper slumber when she got into her own bed, she apparently did not forget what it was she learned the day before by watching her older relatives at play.
She started walking.
Now, this has been something she’s been experimenting with over the course of a couple weeks before this particular day. She would take two, three, maybe four steps before grabbing on to whatever was closest to her or just plopping onto her backside. It was reminiscent of many of my own attempts at mastering the two-legged form of transportation while being governed by a bottle of Jameson.
But something about seeing her older cousins move about so freely seemed to have struck a chord with young Riley. She just decided that it was her time. The days of being forced to navigate the floors of Casa McCann on hands and knees were being thrown to the past, and it was time to spread her proverbial wings and soar.
I was excited for her, and the joy on her face was obvious as her smile exteded from ear to ear as she made each wild step with success. There’s truly nothing else in the world to me that compares to the beauty of seeing her smile or hearing her laugh, and I nervously followed her around, trying to make sure that little head didn’t crack on anything hard with each inevitable fall.
Of course, I also started feeling a little sad at the thought of her walking. This was yet another rung in her ladder of independence, and I was already feeling nostalgic about the days before she could walk. Before she could crawl. When she depended on us to get her from point A to point B.
I already began to feel that little pang in my belly the first time she took the bottle from my hand to hold it herself. It escalated when she began sleeping in her own room at night, and it turned into a pain when she began to pull her hand away from mine so she could play, when squeezing my finger had appeared to be her sense of comfort when she was a newborn.
But the walking thing took it to a new level.
This was truly the greatest thing to ever happen to her, judging by that remarkable smile on her face. She was already becoming increasingly mobile as she mastered the art of crawling, and then speed-crawling, but this... well, this was something entirely new.
She was free.
She walked over to the kitchen where her mother was, and then turned back around and wandered over to the dogs. She made her way to her bookshelf, back around to her mother and ultimately made a bee-line back to me, that smile growing with every step. Oh, there were a few nice falls along the way, but instead of crying she simply stood back up and resumed walking, laughing and wobbling all the way.
At some point, she became bored or cocky, or both. Walking was not enough for the little wanderer, and she began reaching down to pick up her favorite toys so she could play with them, or try to eat them, while she was walking. As you might imagine, this did not help her balance very much, and the falls became a bit more frequent.
But, each time, she looked around for whatever item she inevitably dropped, grabbed it in blueberry-stained fingers and went about her way.
That first day was a good day. I was proud to see just how proud she was with each step, and happy that she was showing determination no matter what got in her way — a trait I’m pleased to share that has been pretty evident in her personality from the start. I’ve always thought in the back of my mind that I don’t really care what she chooses to do with her life in the future, just so it’s something she’s passionate about and she gives it her all.
Yeah. That first day was a good day.
Every day since? Well, not so much. While her steps have become steadier, so has her courage, and those little hands are far quicker than I ever anticipated. She is everywhere, at every time, and her endurance far exceeds anything I bring to the table. Speaking of which, tables were once the safe haven of our home, out of the reach of a curious Riley. It’s where remote controls, glasses, phones and everything else we didn’t want to get Riley-ed sat in relative peace. Yeah, that’s now gone. There are no more safe havens.
There is no more quiet.
There is no more peace.
If there’s anything that fascinates her more than walking, it’s the fact that we have two dogs living in our house. She has adored them both from the start, and they’ve taken to her, as well. But they used to have their own little safe havens on top of the couch where they could escape for a nap (hey, my dogs need a good 22 hours of sleep a day, apparently). Again, there are no safe havens, and now I spend half my time at home removing her fingers from the dogs’ ears.
But I guess that’s what this parenting gig is all about — dealing with one clumsy step at a time.