There is a middle school across the street from us, and each day after lunch lately I’ve been taking Cee over there to explore out back among the baseball fields, pine trees, and crumbling parking lot of this likely underfunded school. The peeling paint of the building entices Wee Cee’s toddler fingers, and while I *probably* shouldn’t let her strip it off, I’m a picker myself. Birch trees have met their match in me and will likely bait my daughter too once we live in a place where they grow.
We go back there with the primary intention to climb the little sets of stairs that lead to the back entrances of the school, which is still out for the summer. Wee Cee thinks they are the absolute best things ever and would march up and down them in the blazing midday sun for hours if I weren’t a hundred times more prone to sunburn than she is. She has inherited her dad’s ability to catch a tan and browns pleasantly under ninety layers of sunscreen while I just burn and peel. The highest flights are only five steps high, so she climbs up with no problem at all and then surveys all below her. It’s coming down that gets a little scary.
Instead of using the banister to guide her down when she summits the staircase, she holds her hands out while looking at me straight in the eye so that I can help her descend. This is one of her measured gestures whose significance I would miss if I weren’t looking close enough. She is no longer a little toddler who blindly walks into hazardous situations without considering their peril. That’s who she was only a month ago, bumbling slipshod through the day and just wanting to see more more more. Now, she’s becoming a little girl who appreciates situations and weighs what’s safe, or at least what’s worth a fall.
I hold her hands and walk backwards as she comes down, trying not to trip over my own two feet and bring us both down into a skinned-knee puddle. She glances up at me several times as if to say, “Yeah, I like you. I think we’re a good pair. I trust you.” I feel needed and important, and my mind always, awkwardly, goes to those at-risk teenage girls who would go on the talk shows I watched as a bored kid. They would say that they just wanted to get pregnant so they’d have a baby who loved them. Being needed unconditionally is intoxicating, something everyone can see the virtue in.
For all the things that make being a mom to a toddler hard, that moment when Cee extends her hands to me without even thinking makes me know that they’re worth it. She knows that I love her and she trusts me. Right then, it’s just me and her and our quiet, intimate appreciation for who we are together.
This marks my 300th post! Hip-hip-hooray! Thanks for sticking around ;D