I'm changing Etta's diaper this morning kissing her belly, listening to her sweet coos, feeling her soft hands on my face, heart full and overflowing with gratitude and joy. And I can't help but think: it's only days now, really. Just days.
It will be days until she's walking and crawling will be a thing of the past. The delight we get in watching her bum sway from side to side as she quickly scoots across the room will be no more. It'll be days too until she's using more and more 'real' words, less baby talk, less cooing. Days until she's fully toddler and not so much baby. One of these days she won't throw herself on the ground and roll around in ecstasies of delight and soon she'll stop crawling over to us just to give a hug, complete with a pat pat on the back. She might stop saying MUAH as she generously gives us 'almost' all the kisses we ask for. She might even stop giving us kisses. She might not nod her head in the same way, or say no so cutely and shake her head so violently that it makes us laugh for much longer. One of these days she won't giggle the same way and her buck tooth grin will give way to a smile full of teeth. Her perfectly plump legs will continue to thin out until what was 3 rolls becomes none at all. She'll find more words and stop using 'dis!' for everything she wants and 'mama' for everything she loves. She'll stop grinning and kissing everything and sticking her bottom lip out and crying when we say no.
And I know, I know that there will be new things. New moments. New delights. Better ones even.
But still. As we all know, it goes by SO fast.
And so I think about my ultimate parenting goal. The motto that hung on a plaque in my grandparents home. One that struck me even from a young age:
There are two gifts we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings.
Roots and wings, eh?
Simple and impossible at the same time. One can't have both roots and wings! And yet that's what we do in this thing called parenting. This is what we try to equip them with. This is it. Really! Roots and wings.
Roots that go deep so they know they are safe, secure, loved, accepted. Family and friends and community and traditions that allow their roots to grow deep and strong. So they know who they are, whose they are, where they belong. Roots that help them weather the storms that will come their way. Roots that give them strength and nourishment to grow tall. Roots that anchor them tight as year after year they stretch to the skies and grow. To reach for the sun - the light that nourishes. Roots? Yes, I want to give them roots.
And wings. Wings to fly? Do I really want them to fly? Away from me and the relative safety I fool myself into thinking I provide? The answer is yes. A resounding and begrudging yes. I want to give them wings - their very own pair that will look nothing like mine. Wings that will take them where they want to go. Wings that will scare and excite with their speed and strength. Wings that will push their limits and open their horizons. Wings that will overwhelm with the thrill and promise of freedom. Wings that will let them explore and soar. Wings that will let them be who they are created to be. Wings that will let them live. Wings? Yes, I want to give them wings as much as I might be tempted to clip them.
So Etta's learning to walk. She's in that stage where she can stand on her own and could take a step if she dared but she seems set on building her stability first. Practice, practice, practice. She's not sure she trusts her legs yet. She knows what she wants, but she's intent on the process right now. She's showing more restraint and patience than we have come to expect from her. She wants to walk, you can see the desperation in her eyes, but for now she wants to hold my hand. She wants the guidance and stability I give her, but the freedom her own feet provide. She stands on her own and holds position, huge grin on her face, looking around for applause, encouragement. And then back to crawling because it's what she knows. Little by little. Day by day. She's learning to walk. She's scared. She's excited. She wants to hold her Mama's hand. I'm scared. I'm excited. I don't ever want her to let go.
She's learning to walk and all I can think about are roots and wings.