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Our Journey into a New World

Anne Vitell
Ridgewood NJ USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 13

Caring for our son, Johnny, who is now 14 months old, has given my husband and me the tremendous opportunity to expand our horizons. At first just working out the basics-healing from a caesarean birth, getting enough sleep, keeping the house livable-kept us completely occupied. Now, as our son moves out into the world to explore everything with gusto, we are meeting some old habits and fears head on. We want him to be confident in his abilities and at the same time we want him to be safe.

These two things are constantly tugging at me from different directions. Because I want my son to be free of unnecessary fear, I am constantly reevaluating the meaning of "safety." I am learning to trust Johnny's innate abilities to do new things without getting hurt. He seems to instinctively know when he is ready to try something new. Of course, we always help him and guard him carefully. But because we have spent months cultivating our love and responsiveness to him, we are learning to trust his communications-mostly grunts and gestures-that say, "Help me expand in this new way, I'm ready!"

One cannot explain the workings of gravity to a one-year-old. And yet, I'm growing more and more to feel that one ought not to try. Words obscure the actual feeling of gravity pulling us down toward the earth. And in his process of constant exploration-walking, running, climbing up on couches, riding in swings, sliding down slides-my son is learning more than we could ever teach him with words. He has the possibility of learning to move naturally, responding to gravity with ease and without any encumbering doubts or worries. We guard him from big falls, of course, but allow the possibility of smaller tumbles. He learns so much from them and always bounces back quickly.

As an adult, one of my personal annoyances is dirt. Yet, I have vivid memories of my mother not only allowing, but encouraging me, to splash about in muddy puddles. "Who was that child?" I wonder now. I don't remember feeling cold, although it was windy and rainy. And I don't remember being grossed out by the mud. So if a gooey mud puddle is bliss for my son, I have to let go and let him romp, even though it means a fair amount of work later washing us both off.

The intense energy of raising a child can be challenging, but it also provides parents with the opportunity to help children through transition in a way that is empowering and encouraging. So, if Johnny wants to ride down a big, twisting slide, somehow my husband and I find a way past the reflex to say "no" because we are afraid he might injure himself. Instead, we get creative. My husband goes with Johnny to the top of the slide and starts him off, and I climb up a little way from the bottom to catch him as he comes down. His huge smile of triumph as he glides gently around the corner into my arms is priceless. Our baby is growing up and loving it.

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