"Wait for me, sweetheart," I say to my son as we walk out the front door.
He pauses, and I am struck with a singular thought: he's not going to wait for me for long.
He is already growing in leaps and bounds and learning and talking and memorizing books and changing EVERY SINGLE DAY. He is exploring his boundaries and climbing higher and trying new things he hasn't tried before. He is not waiting for me to be ready.
I have a friend with a son who is the epitome of "active boy": he stood up and jumped up and down in his crib at six months old, and climbed out of his crib as soon as he could. He regularly scales the playscape created for kids years years older than he is and gives me heart palpitations as I watch him.
I tell my friend that I wish I could be as laid back as she is; she seems relaxed as she watches him, standing back to give him room to explore.
"I tried to rein him in, and we were both miserable," she explained. "He needs to do this, for whatever reason, and he won't wait for me to be ready. I had to take a leap of faith."
He won't wait for me to be ready.
Each step of the parenting process is a leap of faith. Am I doing this right? I think to myself every day. When my son was born, a combination of first-time mom jitters combined with an acute case of postpartum anxiety amplified every decision.
Am I nursing correctly? Is he getting enough nourishment?
Is he sleeping enough? Am I ruining him by not allowing him to cry it out?
Am I giving him enough stimulation during the day? Should I entertain him more?
As I started to relax into motherhood, I learned that no matter which path I took - within reason, of course - everything was going to turn out fine. The key is to tune into my son's personality and needs and figure out the best course of action for him. I've turned down parties and play dates when he's overwhelmed, and tried to make plans my husband and I believe will work best for him.
As he grows, he is making his voice heard more and more. He can tell us how he feels and what he wants, and that transformation is exhilarating and fast-paced. I have seen him make amazing progress in the last year, especially in swim class. A year ago at his first class without me, he cried and refused to get in the water. Now, he is happily swimming under water and grinning from ear to ear. Encouraging him, little by little, to let go was difficult, at times. Now he is jumping in without hesitation.
Recently, I enrolled my son in a mother's day out program at a preschool just down the road starting in September. I looked at a couple of preschools in the area, and I am happy that he was offered a slot in the program at the one I think best suits him. It's a small school, with plenty of transition time encouraged and an in-home visit from the teacher before school. I couldn't ask for more than that. And still, I was teary at my visit a couple of weeks ago as I thought of this new milestone.
I am, I think, secretly relieved that he is not comfortable with strangers, and I know he has inherited his reserved nature from his father, just as surely as my not-so-reserved personality comes honestly to me from my mother. Am I holding him back or am I letting him set the pace? I question myself.
Soon, it will be time for him to fly and stretch. It may be a little uncomfortable for all of us, but maybe he'll surprise us. Perhaps he'll take to preschool like a champ and dive right in as he now does in swim class. He won't wait for me to be ready... he's growing up.
And I'll be right here, right behind him. He might even pause and let me walk beside him sometimes, and I'll offer my hand and hope he takes it when he needs me.