I watch my son, Josiah, hold onto the old, scratched up coffee table, gripping the edge with his tiny fingers while he shuffles over to the couch. At 10 months, he’s still wobbly, but every day I notice his legs grow sturdier and his confidence stronger.
He also falls. Often. Sometimes his face gets red with frustration when he can’t keep up with his older siblings, and tears well up when he stumbles. But he’s just learning, and stubbornness propels him onward.
I hear the slap of his hands on the hardwood floor as he makes his way to the front stairs. He’s beginning to climb steps now—a milestone I’d prefer to delay. I follow closely behind, because even though he’s gotten quite adept at going up, he hasn’t exactly mastered coming down—or at least coming down safely.
He sets his hands on the first stair and waits for me. The corners of his mouth turn up and his blue eyes squint in excitement. I tentatively “chase” him to the top. He enjoys the game and doesn’t realize I’m actually spotting him. Mama’s not about to let him take another tumble, although it seems to him like that possibility is all part of the fun of it. The threat of falling doesn’t deter him from climbing.
Somewhere along the way, I lost that fearlessness. I started to assume I should be able to walk without ever crawling, to bolt up the stairs without a misstep. In the past, I traveled across the world without the prospect of getting lost holding me back. I applied for jobs without being crippled by the idea of rejection. I jumped into new ventures headfirst simply because I found joy in possibility. But now in the daily work of mothering, I easily forget it’s not only okay to fall, but it's normal, expected, and part of the learning process.
Nursing is natural, so why did it take six weeks for my son to latch? Fevers are common, so why am I so anxious this time around when it’s my third kid? I’m trying to be consistent in how I handle tantrums. Why does it feel like nothing I do works? I too often believe I’m always supposed to know exactly how to parent my kids. I should get it right the first time, or at least I’m not supposed to fall down so much.
As mamas, there are always lessons we’re learning—how to get the baby to sleep, navigate a complicated diagnosis, add a child to the family, talk to our kids about death, transition to an empty nest, or a thousand other things. We watch our kids grow, but we don’t always give ourselves permission to grow alongside them. We expect their mistakes and messes but carry an overwhelming weight of frustration with our own. We let them be a beginner and eagerly record their milestones and the smallest developments, but when it comes to growing into motherhood, sometimes all we see is where we fall short.
What if we took a moment to sit down and chart our progress? If we look back, maybe we’ll see we’ve started walking when before we were crawling. We’ve tried something new and navigated another challenge. We’ve put one foot in front of the other, slowly at first, until eventually our feet have grown sturdy and our pace has quickened. Maybe we got a few bumps and bruises, or even scars, along the way. But we made it through that one thing that’s made our hearts and bodies ache, and now we’re working our way through the next.
We’re always growing into motherhood. We learn to crawl or walk or climb, fall as we might. And we keep moving forward.
Mixed Berry + Cocoa Smoothie
Yields about 40 ounces
16 ounces frozen mixed berries (my mix included blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries)
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons unsalted almond butter
6 Medjool dates, pitted
Add all ingredients to a blender. Mix well until smooth. Pour into glasses, serve, and enjoy!
Note: I regularly make this for my three year olds, and they love it. After my daughter had some recently, she said, “Mommy! There’s chocolate milk in it!” There’s not technically chocolate milk in it, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to have your toddler think there is!