Most afternoons my toddler and I go for a walk. Sometimes we just stroll to the corner and back, and other times we take a longer walk to the playground or to throw rocks from the little bridge over the creek.
Occasionally I’ll still push her in the jogging stroller but more often than not, she prefers to walk beside me, toting a favorite toy or her “purse” or some other object that strikes her fancy on any given day.
Lately her favorite activity has been pushing her baby doll, Fairy, in her tiny pink stroller.
Fairy enjoys our walks, too.
Yesterday as we were strolling down the avenue my daughter suddenly sounded alarmed.
Oh no! A cliff!
Ahead of us there was a small crack in the sidewalk, where the concrete had settled over the years. To give you an idea of the size of this perilous cliff, a four year old on training wheels wouldn’t even steer away to avoid it.
But to my two year old and her doll Fairy, their lives were in danger.
We approached the “cliff” slowly.
It’s just a crack in the sidewalk, no big deal. I reassured her.
Mommy NO! she screamed, as if to warn me to proceed with caution.
In that moment I realized that to small children, perception- perspective- is everything.
There’s so little they can control in their worlds. So many boogie men under their toddler beds. So many bee stings and boo boos just waiting to happen. As parents, we spend most of our time warning them of danger, yet when they overestimate the danger themselves, we’re quick to dismiss it.
I thought for a moment about how it felt to be small. Vulnerable. I remembered the big kids and boogie men, the bullies and barking dogs. I remembered, too, how it felt as I got older, when things happened that I couldn’t predict.
I still feel that way sometimes. Even as an adult the “cliffs in the sidewalk” occasionally get in my way. I don’t like it when my fears are dismissed by the people I care about, and I thought about how I’d want to be comforted: with love, not frustration.
We walked closer the the crack, my daughter and I, and I asked my daughter to take the lead.
What should Mommy do, honey?
She looked at me, suddenly onto my game.
It ok Mommy. It’s only a crack.
In her life there will likely be many cracks in the proverbial sidewalk. She’ll encounter many problems: relationships and heartbreak, the messy realities of growing up.There will be times when she may even lose her way.
While I can I’ll walk alongside her, reassure her, and support her in the journey. With any luck, I’ll give her the skills to be able to tell the difference between the canyons she can pass over and the ones better left untraversed.
She’ll cross over to the other side one day, and she’ll be able to manage on her own. Until then I’m happy to guide her on the way.
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.