Friday, February 13, 2009

Does a half inch scoot forward count as a first step?

I’ve written before that I’m anxious to see River’s first steps before leaving to spend three weeks overseas next week. It’s not the missing the first steps that bothers me, it’s returning to see him already an expert walker – to miss that novelty and excitement of a new skill gained.

In the past few days, I’ve been trying to move toward acceptance that I might not see them. I tell myself that he needs to move at his own speed, that I need to make this trip, and if our schedules don’t coincide perfectly, that won’t change our loving relationship. I remind myself that I’ve been there for many firsts in his first 14 months and I can’t be there for anything. I remind myself to not make a mountain of a molehill.

But still, I’d like to see them. The other day I held my bottle of DKNY perfume just out of his reach. It’s shaped like an apple and the green liquid floating inside is very intriguing to him. He puffed and panted and jumped and reached. He cried. He wanted it, badly. But not enough to let go of the edge of the bed and step toward it.

So this evening, when Mark came home from work and River was in his footie pyjamas, I decided to take stronger action. While he was in the middle of the hardwood living room floor, I pulled my hands from his grasp, and left him standing on his own without anything to hang on to. He wobbled, but stood there and kept himself upright.

Then I reached out my hands and urged him to come to me. Mark came from behind and began to cheer him on. River moved his right foot ahead slightly, just a little bit. But it was a movement forward and he did it on his own. I began to clap and cheer. Mark added to the chorus.

River’s look was priceless. His mouth was open, half in a smile, half a look of shock. He alternated panting with laughing. He had that simultaneous wide-eyed look of disbelief, fright and amazement that occurs when one reaches the boundaries of their physical limits and sees that what they thought were boundaries were in fact within the limits of capability. I think I had a similar look when I successfully climbed a small rock face or after giving birth. To be there and see that look was priceless. Even though I wished for the videocamera, which was only feet away, I wasn’t about to move and miss a second of the wonder.

We’ve seen that he’s physically capable for a while now. I think tonight he also realized he’s able to do more. Whether or not I see any more progress in the next few days is unknown. But that half inch was enough for me to leave with a calmer conscience. More than the movement itself, I saw his realization that he can enter a new phase of life. I couldn’t ask for more.

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