Slow & Steady
His bare feet pad through the grass; he has discarded his shoes somewhere in the backyard. He bends down to retrieve a ball and his diaper peeks out over the waistband of his shorts. Golden curls bounce as he follows his brothers, who are running back and forth across the yard, playing a game that vaguely resembles football. His expression is serious; he pays close attention to what they are doing, eager to prove he can keep up. Behind his determined expression, there is a hint of a smile, an acknowledgment of his joy at being included in the game.
When we first found ourselves under stay at home orders, he was not yet walking. We thought we’d hunker down for a few weeks and then life would return to normal. I didn’t imagine days at home would turn to weeks at home, those weeks becoming months while he turned into a full-fledged toddler. Crawling turned to shaky first steps and those uncertain steps became more confident. Our world shook around us, the shock of our new normal and updates on these unprecedented times keeping us glued to the latest information. Slowly we became more confident in navigating 2020; our collection of masks growing, creating new routines, more creative in how to celebrate passing milestones as we continued to stay home. With each passing day, his steps became more purposeful. I realize now that there will be no quick “back to normal”; the way I navigate this time period must be purposeful too.
Summer is turning to fall, the air is crisp and cool. He runs behind his brothers now. For months they’ve been each other's only playmates. Long ago, in our pre-pandemic life, I looked forward to this fall. He’d be at the perfect age for all kinds of activities and explorations while his brothers were at school; library story times, visiting new parks and coffee shops, Friday mornings at MOPs. I had grand plans for this fall. Instead we are juggling virtual school and homeschool preschool and life in a pandemic. He doesn’t realize that this year isn’t what I planned. Some mornings when I come to lift him from his crib and change his diaper, his crib is full; he giggles happily at the antics of the brothers that have joined him. He basks in their attention, thrilled to be included in their games.
When I scroll back through my phone to pictures from March, from life “before”, I marvel at how much he has grown. The growth is slow and steady, imperceptible in the day to day; but when I look back it’s shocking how much he has grown. In March, he still had traces of being a baby; now there is no question that he is a toddler. I’ve grown too. In early March, if you’d asked me if I could manage all of the things that 2020 has thrown at us, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine a world in which we had to manage all of those things. But here we are, still going. We’ve been stretched and tested and in the day to day, it’s hard to see that growth. But if you look back to March? The growth is shocking.