“Spot me, spot me, Mom,” she says, her legs awkwardly kicking into the sky, her hair spilling over prickly grass, her upside-down smile revealing that top row of baby teeth intact for just a little longer. I run over to help straighten her flailing legs and pull them together so that they line up perfectly with the rest of her body and point up toward the sky. Without even looking, I can feel her happiness and pride. The headstand is the newest of Things to Be Conquered–number #479 in the line-up of victories that have filled almost seven years of growing up–victories that I’ve spotted in some way or another along the way.
“Don’t let go,” she instructs, her smile close to crossing the line into a hearty giggle but quickly reigned back into concentration mode.
“I’m not going to let go,” I promise. “I’m not going to let go until you tell me it’s okay to let go.”
Over and over and over we practice. I offer a steady hand to lean against while she finds her balance, a mix of shaky elbows and pink cheeks from the head rush.
“Hold my feet, Mom,” she says for the eighteenth time. I hold her feet.
“Try resting your knees on your elbows,” I offer. “That’s how I learned. It will help you get your balance before you put your legs into the sky.”
“Okay, but don’t let go,” she says again.
“Lainey, I’m not going to let go until you tell me to,” I assure her again.
She’s determined. She throws her legs into the air again and again and again, always just a hair too reliant on my support to keep her from mastering an unassisted headstand. I stand beside her though, committed to just however many kicks it takes until she’s ready.
I watch as she eventually takes my advice, balancing her knees on her elbows, forming a tripod–a shaky one, but steady enough that she doesn’t call out for me to spot her. She can’t contain her laughter, completely satisfied with her ability to hold her own weight upside-down.
“See, I told you. You’re doing it,” I say. I wait for her invitation to spot her. I take my mark, ready to step in with steady hands to hold her legs. Any time, now. She’s going to need me.
She stretches the right leg up first, jerking it into place when it dances for just a moment to the left.
I’m ready to jump in. Spot you, right? Just say it, I’m here.
Her left leg leaves its position to join the right leg while her face grows redder and her smile seeps deeper into the milky skin of that face I love.
I’m here. Say you need me, and I’m here.
I wait to jump in and steady her legs, but she pulls them upright on her own. Her right toes touch her left toes for just a nanosecond, and those legs we’ve referred to as noodles and sticks and toothpicks are, for a moment, steel beams. High-rises. Strong and supportive.
It only lasted a second–that perfect aligned headstand she’s been dreaming of, toes pointed to the clouds–but it happened and I saw it.
Legs quickly fall out of place, tumbling down like dominoes–knees falling into elbows, elbows into shoulders, shoulders into neck, neck into somersault and giggles and silky blond hair that kisses a thousand blades of grass before it shoots back up into a victorious dismount.
She did it. She did it for only a second, but a second that exponentially grows into infinite measure because she did it alone. Without me.
I waited to spot all three of them this week.
Just say the word. I’m here. This is my job.
I watched from the sidelines, arms outstretched, on their mark, ready to swoop and scoop, align and assist.
..but those babies stretched out on their own. No “Spot me! Spot me, Mom!”
They knew I was there. Oh, I know they knew I was there. I’m kind of loud and obnoxious when it comes to “I’m right here, baby!”
But I sat on my hands and smiled, so proud of their independence, so reminded of the fact that we all need space to spread our wings.
When they did it? When they mastered #62 and #235 and #469 on their list of Things to Be Conquered, do you know what they did next? They turned their heads, looking for me, checking to see if I saw it. I saw her look to see my reaction when she nailed that headstand. I watched her run to me when I picked her up from preschool, waiting for my high five on the best day ever. I caught his grin when he let go of those hands and put that right foot forward.
Do you see me, Mom? I can do this on my own. You taught me how.
I see you, kids. Keep going. I’ll spot you when you need me. And when you don’t, I’ll clap and wave and maybe even pick up a book or two to catch up on some reading. But I’m always here.
When you forget how to do it? When you forget how to stand alone?
Come back to me. I’ll show you.
You got it from your mama.
Don’t you forget that.
Tapping into some baby style-loving with contributions this week:
At BabyZone with some of our favorite shops: 10 Complete Hip Baby Looks for Under $50
…and over at e-How with tips on combining baby style fun with budgets: Kids and Clothes: How to Shop Without Breaking the Bank
And if you haven’t seen this yet…we applaud Honey Maid for their #thisiswholesome campaign and the way they beautifully stood by their ads. LOVE WINS. So does brilliant creative marketing that sends positive messages. Meet me at the campfire…S’mores for all.