Dear Atticus, first steps

Dear Atticus,

A few weeks ago, one of your classmates took her first steps! Your teachers called her Mom excitedly. Mom excitedly called Dad. And Dad said, “That’s nice.” This was not a sufficient response for Mom. However, a little while later, as Mom watched on the video camera, Dad showed up and tried to get your friend to walk to him. Turns out her Dad is a softie after all.

Your dad saw her walk again that afternoon when he picked you up, said he cheered with everyone else. He told me the story when I got home. There was a lot we didn’t say that day. Neither of us voiced the question we were thinking: What would we do if you took your first steps at school instead of with us? It’s the kind of question I squint to avoid looking at directly, averting my gaze lest it burn me. Apparently your dad felt the same way, so we spoke solely about your friend and her great accomplishment.

You have been close to walking for a while now. Grammy and I were both walking at nine months, and we thought you would be right behind, surely be walking by ten months yourself. But you got lazy, preferring for us to hold your hands and let you walk around. (Sometimes I would see you on the video camera at school, walking around with your teachers, and I was thankful that someone else was dealing with a sore back while I sat in my comfy chair.) You got to the point where you would take a step without knowing it while cruising the furniture, and your dad started winding you up (as it were) and letting you walk across a room on sheer momentum. When you figured out no one was holding you, you got mad.

But now you are finally doing it, taking steps on your own. The first time was in the back room at your Great-Grandma’s house. You did it a couple of times for your dad, and then once for me. I like to think that you waited for us to be able to see you, and you waited so that you could do it somewhere important (even if your dad and I were the only ones to see). You did not want us to have to answer those unspoken questions. And now? Now you are cruising down the hall.

You have been so unsettled as you have been learning this new thing. You were acting like a growth spurt/Wonder Weeks checklist: sleeping poorly, being clingy, eating less. It has been hard for you to settle down at night, hard to slow your brain. I know the feeling, buddy, and I am sorry. I hope that getting the hang of this walking thing will help you feel like yourself again.

We hear that things are over for us now, but it has seemed like they were over for a while, since you were mobile. I always wondered if it would be hard to let go in order to teach things like walking and bike riding and going off to college. It turns out that we were so busy being proud that we didn’t notice.

You still get mad when you realize that we have let go. But it already takes you the whole hallway to figure that out.

Love,
Mama

P.S. At school, you generally crawled around with another little boy. I loved watching you on the video as you entertained each other. Now, though, there are three of you–your walking friend has started playing with you as well (and I guess she is a good influence). Your teachers say you are inseparable, call you the Three Musketeers. When your dad told me about this, I said how nice it was that you guys started letting her play with you. Your dad looked at me and said, “Maybe she lets them play with her.”

P.P.S. That’s why I love your dad.

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