Leaving the Lurch

“Mama!” Ellis called me from her crib.

I walked upstairs and peeked into her room. She was lying on her back, eyes closed, her arms reaching up. “Hewlp!” She said. “Hewlp, Mama!”

Even though I knew she was asleep, I picked her up and rocked her, hoping to ease her from whatever dream of trouble was tormenting her mind. I tried to imagine what horrible nightmare was haunting her. Messy hands. Elmo falling behind the couch where she can’t reach. Running out of M&Ms.

“Dream of pumpkins,” I whispered. “Dream of slides and swings. Dream of shaking your booty and finger painting.”

I felt her relax and I laid her back down.  Then, I tucked the green blanket around her body, the pink blanket around her feet and the polka dot blanket around her baby doll, who snuggles in with her while she sleeps.

I know I shouldn’t go in when she is sleeping. I know I need to let her learn to soothe herself. But sometimes, everything that is in me rises up with outstretched arms to catch her in her trouble, even if it is just a dream.

When Ellis was 8 months old, I sat her on her rocking chair while I grabbed a onesie from her drawer. When I turned around I saw her tipping forward out of the chair. I lurched toward her, grabbing her by the pants with her face just inches from the ground. She cried from the shock of the sudden stop. I felt like I had super powers.

But I find myself fighting against this urge more and more as she gets older. We are both cautious girls. Worried about rules, and failing, and getting good grades. So, I’m trying to encourage her to walk, to go down the slide, to stand alone, all the while fighting against the desire to lurch forward with my arms out bracing for a fall. Yesterday, at the park, without my encouragement, she took three steps from the slide to the stairs. As I watched her tentatively step out, arms outstretched for balance, I had to bite my lips and put my hands in my armpits to stop myself from from trying to catch her. She did it.

Or course she did.

Ironically, that’s the hardest part of all of this. Not doing anything at all.

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