I remember the game we often played as children – “Mother/Captain, May I?” The person who was “mother/captain” stood across the yard from the rest of the players. One by one, she/he would say a child’s name- “You may take two giant steps forward”, or”You may take one baby step forward”, or “You may take three bunny hop steps backward”. The players needed, however, to always remember to first say, “mother/captain, may I?” before moving. (If not, back to the start you went.}
The goal of the game was to be the first to reach and tag mother/captain and then take her/his place. Of course, as kids, we always hoped to be given giant steps – the bigger the better, the faster, the best.
But in real life, on many of life’s developmental continuums, we move along by baby steps. We never really outgrow them.
This realization struck me on 1st Friday Out Play Shoppe this week as we visited our senior friends at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center. The elderly are well acquainted with baby steps as they manuever themselves around – both physically, verbally and emotionally – one baby step at a time.
I watched one of our little Play Shoppers who seemed content and pleased to follow the other children down the hall, holding her basket of small paper flowers. She stood back while the other children clambered to be the one to give a flower away – yet the look on her face showed her interest. I asked the other children to let it be her turn this time.
Her mom guided her as she hesitated with every approaching step – until with her hand extended as far as it would go, without having to get any closer, the elderly woman reached out for the flower, as far as she could go, and they both smiled.
Success – baby steps.
At the park the children ran and played. One little girl whose mom was telling me that her daughter needed muscle strengthening practice in climbing steps, stood and watched with interest as the other children ran up the steps and down the curly slide. She independently moved closer and closer to the steps as the others zipped by her.
And then she reached out to grab the hand rail. Holding on tight, she pulled herself up to the first step, hesitated, then the same with the second and third. She reached the first platform and turned the corner to finish her journey. Reaching the top, we could see her sitting, ready to enter the short tunnel. Her mom said, “I’ll catch you” and down she came. Delight – pride – all over her face.
Baby steps – as she began the climb again.
I talked with a mom at the park who shared her decision to move her little girl – doing well on her small potty – up to using the big toilet. This was causing accidents, struggles. I encouraged her to go back to the small potty for now.
Baby steps to success.
The next day I went to a baby shower of a young woman who was a good friend of my son’s when they were little people. She is mature, intelligent, excited, confident; yet as parents ourselves, we know about this parenting continuum – that we all move along, baby steps at a time.
Many days parents become tired of taking baby steps. “When is my child ever going to ….” ” When will there ever be time for me?”
“Mother, may I please take 5 giant steps?”
Yet, in the end, it is these very baby steps we’ve taken to help our children develop and grow in so many ways – our time, our patience, our nurturing, our acceptance, our love – that are recognized and appreciated as the giant steps we’ve hungered for ourselves right along.
Baby steps – worth it.