Children are constant examples of change. Stagnation is not an option.
When they’re young, every day feels new and different. They remind us that we don’t arrive, that change is at the core of life. Growth is what we’re seeking; mobility is a must. It’s an odd thing to be a parent, to paradoxically want your child dependent and snuggly and autonomous and able. It’s a struggle to let go of my son’s fingers, still plump with baby fat, and watch him go. There’s pain in that process, for both of us.
He tentatively pulled himself up on the coffee table or the couch and then moved along with a light grip. But sometimes he failed and consequently fell. He gained more bumps and bruises as he searched for his own footing. As he scoot-crawled, he managed to get into cupboards, bookcases, trash cans, the toilet. He went places he shouldn’t. More independence means more opportunities for misbehavior. But l encouraged him to try to walk, knowing he’d likely fall. I pushed for more mobility, knowing he’d get into more trouble. I stayed near and picked him up if he was discouraged or diverted him from misbehavior.
But I let him try. I let him move. Sometimes I even hid. I watched from the other room because he’d whine and expect my help if he saw me. Without the absence of my help, he would never build his own strength and courage. He would never move on his own. Sometimes he got hurt. He was crushed that he’d fallen instead of moved forward. I moved in to comfort, but once he calmed down, I stood him back up and walked away, knowing he couldn’t stop trying, or he’d never learn. I wasn’t being cruel. I was being a parent.
God grants me freedom — the freedom to go and be, the freedom to fall and fail. I imagine there’s pain in it for him, and I know there’s pain in it for me. But it’s still what he’s chosen because he loves me enough to set me free. He doesn’t want me to be a baby forever. He doesn’t call me to immobility, whining because I want to feel his hands in mine. He calls me to learn, to grow, to try, to fail, to get back up, to move forward diligently, willingly, painfully. He calls me to go.
Mobility is a must, a hallmark achievement marking the end of an era and the beginning of another. Out with the baby, in with the toddler. Out with the weak Christian, in with the Christian willing to move, willing to take steps of faith. Even when God doesn’t seem near. Even when no safety net is in sight. Even when falling is probable.
Go. Move. It’s part of our growth.
Denise Lilly lives in Maine with her husband and two sons. She recently published her first book – Cling: Faith Lessons from my Son’s Early Years. Follow her writing at www.deniselilly.com or find her on twitter @denisemlilly.